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Preview NZ v Ireland

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Sportal.co.nz     14 Jun 2012     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: New AMI Stadium, Christchurch, June 16, 19.35 (NZT)

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 25, New Zealand 24, Ireland 0, Drawn 1

LAST TIME: June 9, 2012 (Auckland) – New Zealand 42-10 Ireland.

WALKING WOUNDED: Ireland has been boosted by the return of tighthead prop Mike Ross. He takes the place of Declan Fitzpatrick who has been added to the reserves at the expense of Ronan Loughney. The experienced Gordon D'Arcy has been named as the replacement for Keith Earls at second five-eighths. It will be the 48th time he has been paired with skipper Brian O'Driscoll in the centres. For New Zealand, the loss of Victor Vito to a medial ligament strain, is the only injury from the first Test and his place has been taken by Adam Thomson, a try scorer when replacing Vito in the first Test. Sam Cane takes Thomson's place on the reserves bench.

FORM:
New Zealand:(All at home)
V Ireland Won 42-10
V France (WC final) Won 8-7
V Australia Won 20-6
V Argentina Won 33-10
V Canada Won 79-15


Ireland:
V New Zealand Lost 10-42 (A)
V England Lost 9-30 (A)
V Scotland Won 32-14 (H)
V France Drew 17-17 (A)
V Italy Won 42-10 (H)

WHO'S HOT: The All Blacks started at such a scorching pace in the first Test they face a challenge of their own in attempting to match that effort. But special in the performance was halfback Aaron Smith, on debut. He gave the backline a flying start and it was only an early season lack of cohesion that prevented more tries being scored. Sonny Bill Williams had a combative role in midfield, fed by first five-eighths Dan Carter, who relished the extra moments Smith's crisp passes gave him. No.8 Kieran Read had a huge game in the pack where the unity of the eight was a feature of the game.

Ireland struggled to make a response although it wasn't for any lack of trying on the behalf of flanker Sean O'Brien who had a willing contest in the loose. Hooker Rory Best showed fine defensive skills and the backline threw hard passes in a bid to achieve the speed that came more naturally to the All Blacks. However, the kicking game was not as accurate as it might have been and the All Blacks were able to launch effective counter-attacks. The experience offered the side by D'Arcy and returning wing Andrew Trimble should stiffen Irish resistance.

WE THINK: New Zealand set an impressive benchmark for the season and repeating that, let alone improving upon it, would be a feat in itself. Weather might also have an effect on the situation but even then the capacity of the home team to lift the pace could deny Ireland the comfort it might feel from a more restrained contest. Without poor weather the home team could be an even better unit. The All Blacks have more experience of the up tempo game they want to play while Ireland in attempting to match it increase the risk factor and any mistakes would be costly. The All Blacks should win by 10 points.
TEAMS:
New Zealand1.Tony Woodcock, 2.Andrew Hore, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Brodie Retallick, 5.Sam Whitelock, 6.Adam Thomson, 7.Richie McCaw (captain), 8.Kieran Read, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Daniel Carter, 11.Julian Savea, 12.Sonny Bill Williams, 13.Conrad Smith, 14.Zac Guildford, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Hikawera Elliot, 17.Ben Franks, 18.Ali Williams, 19.Sam Cane, 20.Piri Weepu, 21.Aaron Cruden, 22.Ben Smith.

Ireland1.Cian Healy, 2.Rory Best, 3.Mike Ross, 4.Dan Touhy, 5.Donnacha Ryan, 6.Kevin McLaughlin, 7.Sean O'Brien, 8.Jamie Heaslip, 9.Conor Murray, 10.Jonathan Sexton, 11.Andrew Trimble, 12.Gordon D'Arcy, 13.Brian O'Driscoll, 14.Fergus McFadden, 15.Rob Kearney.

Reserves: 16.Sean Cronin, 17.Declan Fitzpatrick, 18.Donncha O'Callaghan, 19.Peter O'Mahony, 20.Eoin Reddan, 21.Ronan O'Gara, 22.Simon Zebo.

REFEREE: Nigel Owens