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Preview: NZ v Ireland

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Sportal.co.nz     21 Jun 2012     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Waikato Stadium, Auckland, June 23, 19.35 (NZT)

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 26, New Zealand 25, Ireland 0, Drawn 1

LAST TIME: June 9, 2012 (Auckland) - New Zealand 22-19 Ireland.

WALKING WOUNDED: New Zealand suffered a significant blow when first five-eighths and second Test match-winner Dan Carter pulled with a hamstring training on Tuesday. His bench cover Aaron Cruden will start with Beauden Barrett moving onto the bench for the first time. No.8 Kieran Read has not been risked after suffering head knocks in each of the first two Tests. Richie McCaw has moved from the open side of the scrum to No.8 while Liam Messam, who came into the squad as cover has been named to start ahead of Adam Thomson who had his nose broken again in the second Test.

Having lost Gordon D'Arcy Ireland have rushed in his replacement Paddy Wallace at second five-eighths while Keith Earls who partnered Brian O'Driscoll in the first Test has returned from a pectoral muscle injury and has been named on the wing. Jamie Heaslip's loss to a broken finger has seen his replacement in Christchurch Peter O'Mahony named to start at No.8.

FORM:
New Zealand:(All at home)
V Ireland Won 22-12
V Ireland Won 42-10
V France (WC final) Won 8-7
V Australia Won 20-6
V Argentina Won 33-10

Ireland:
V New Zealand Lost 19-22 (A)
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)

Ireland showed they had learned from their first Test hammering and produced an outstanding recovery in the second Test to stymie the All Blacks' attacking weapons in the backline. They took New Zealand to the wire and showed that nearly 12 months of playing had still not quelled their competitive fires. New Zealand fell off the intensity they managed to achieve in the first Test and coach Steve Hansen acknowledged that more effort would go into the preparation of the side ahead of the last Test.

WHO'S HOT: The hottest player on either side in the second Test had to be Carter and he is out this time around. That changes the dynamic for the home side which will have an experienced combination at halfback and first five-eighths with the two Aarons, Smith and Cruden respectively, facing an Irish cauldron. The absence of experienced Ireland No.8 Jamie Heaslip will diminish the Irish ability to maximise this chance, but there will still be pressure to be exerted by outstanding tourist Sean O'Brien who must be running close to being the player of the series. The front rows of both teams have been retained and after the working over they received last week it will be interesting to note the All Blacks' response. Ireland first five-eighths Jonathan Sexton has been a confident performer and he will be looking to make his tactical kicking even more exacting than it was last weekend.

WE THINK: Ireland will sense yet another chance to achieve their Holy Grail of securing a first win over the All Blacks and after the home team's inability to shake the pressure last week they would have every right. But Ireland have also been forced to make changes and that could be the out New Zealand look to exploit. Will 'one foot on the airbridge' apply to the tourists? That will be the question, especially if New Zealand are able to gain an early dominance, and that will be a must if the unbeaten record is to be retained. We pick New Zealand by six.

TEAMS: 

New Zealand
1.Luke Woodcock, 2.Andrew Hore, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Luke Romano, 5.Sam Whitelock, 6.Liam Messam, 7.Sam Cane, 8.Richie McCaw (captain), 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Aaron Cruden, 11.Hosea Gear, 12.Sonny Bill Williams, 13.Conrad Smith, 14.Ben Smith, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Keven Mealamu, 17.Ben Franks, 18.Brodie Retallick, 19.Adam Thomson, 20.Piri Weepu, 21.Beauden Barrett, 22.Tamati Ellison.

Ireland1.Cian Healy, 2.Rory Best, 3.Mike Ross, 4.Dan Touhy, 5.Donnacha Ryan, 6.Kevin McLaughlin, 7.Sean O'Brien, 8.Peter O'Mahony, 9.Conor Murray, 10.Jonathan Sexton, 11.Keith Earls, 12.Paddy Wallace, 13.Brian O'Driscoll, 14.Fergus McFadden, 15.Rob Kearney.

Reserves: 16.Sean Cronin, 17.Declan Fitzpatrick, 18.Donncha O'Callaghan, 19.Chris Henry, 20.Eoin Reddan, 21.Ronan O'Gara, 22.Andrew Trimble.

REFEREE: Romain Poite