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Preview: All Blacks v Ireland

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Sportal.co.nz     10 Jun 2010     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, Saturday June 12, 19:35 NZT.


HEAD TO HEAD: Played 22 - New Zealand 21, Ireland 0, Draws 1.

LAST TIME: November 15, 2008 (Dublin) - New Zealand 22-3 Ireland.

WALKING WOUNDED: Both teams are showing the wear and tear associated with modern-day rugby. The All Blacks are without: Ali Williams (Achilles), Isaia Toeava (hip), Sitiveni Sivivatu (shoulder), Ma'a Nonu (knee), Stephen Donald (shoulder), Mike Delany (shoulder), Jason Eaton (knee), Mils Muliaina (knee) and Richard Kahui (sternum).

Ireland is without its iconic lock Paul O'Connell and others unavailable include centre Fergus McFadden (jaw), hooker Jerry Flannery (calf), Shane Horgan (stomach), Rory Best (ankle), Keith Earls (groin) and Stephen Ferris (cheekbone).


FORM: New Zealand is traditionally a slow starter in its home Test window but in more recent years that has been the result of a disrupted programme of preparation due to Super 14 finals commitments. That didn't prove an issue in 2010 and the All Blacks' coaches have been able to have more time with the side. Whether that results in an improved start remains to be seen. Equally, Ireland, which lost its tour warm-up game to the Barbarians last Friday, has hardly had the most ideal preparation either with a solid core of its top players forced to withdraw from the tour. On that score both teams would go into the Test underdone as combinations.

WHO'S HOT: Ireland has solidity in its backline based around its outstanding centre and captain Brian O'Driscoll, still at the forefront of centres in the world game. Add to that his midfield partner Gordon D'Arcy, win Tommy Bowe and first five-eighths Ronan O'Gara, and there is a fair core of experience for New Zealand to overcome. David Wallace represents a threat in the loose, paired with No.8 Jamie Heaslip while prop John Hayes has been around the traps for a good period of time.

New Zealand will be looking to its experienced core to set the example in the Test. Lock Brad Thorn had another outstanding season with the Crusaders and in combination with experienced hooker Keven Mealamu he will be looking to mix it in the tight. Richie McCaw will be a taskmaster for the opposing loosies while in the backline, the inside combination of halfback Jimmy Cowan and first five-eighths Dan Carter can be expected to play a big role in New Zealand's attacking strategy. Both wings, Joe Rokocoko and Cory Jane, can expect plenty of work.

WE THINK: It is a daunting task Ireland faces with so many of its key players out of consideration. The limitations caused by such a high list of injuries are exacerbated when away from home. This is an All Blacks team which has been also hit by injuries but with up and comers included and having a chance that under normal circumstances might not have been available to them until later in their careers. That should make them a formidable combination, and under the circumstances Ireland might struggle to cope with the individual and team skills the All Blacks are able to unleash.

TEAMS:

New Zealand 1.Ben Franks, 2. Keven Mealamu, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Brad Thorn, 5.Anthony Boric, 6.Jerome Kaino, 7. Richie McCaw (captain), 8.Kieran Read, 9.Jimmy Cowan, 10.Dan Carter, 11.Joe Rokocoko, 12.Benson Stanley, 13.Conrad Smith, 14.Cory Jane, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Aled de Malmanche, 17.Neemia Tialata, 18.Sam Whitelock, 19.Victor Vito, 20.Piri Weepu, 21.Aaron Cruden, 22.Zac Guildford.

Ireland1.Cian Healy, 2.Sean Cronin, 3.John Hayes, 4.Donncha O'Callaghan, 5.Mick O'Driscoll, 6.John Muldoon, 7.David Wallace, 8.Jamie Heaslip, 9.Tomas O'Leary, 10.Ronan O'Gara, 11.Andrew Trimble, 12.Gordon D'Arcy, 13.Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 14.Tommy Bowe, 15.Robert Kearney.

Reserves: 16.John Fogarty, 17.Tony Buckley, 18.Dan Tuohy, 19.Shane Jennings, 20.Eoin Reddan, 21.Jonathaon Sexton, 22.Geordan Murphy.

REFEREE:Wayne Barnes (England)