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Preview: Ireland v New Zealand

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Sportal.co.nz     23 Nov 2013     Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 27, New Zealand 26, Ireland 0, Drawn 1

LAST TIME: New Zealand 60 beat Ireland 0, June 23, 2012, Waikato Stadium

WALKING WOUNDED: Ireland have had concerns all week about the availability of centre Brian O'Driscoll and first five-eighths Jonathan Sexton but both are expected to be selected for the game. So too, is fullback Rob Kearney who trained during the week after suffering a rib cartilage injury last weekend. Definitely out is wing Fergus McFadden with a broken hand which further weakens the three-quarters with Simon Zebo and Keith Earls injured earlier. Gordon D'Arcy is expected back in the side.

New Zealand are without the services of first five-eighths Dan Carter and prop Tony Woodcock who both suffered injuries against England at the weekend. Cory Jane returns in a second outing since his extended injury break.

FORM: Ireland were comfortable winners over Samoa 40-9 two weeks ago but undid that with a 15-32 loss to Australia. They have been lambasted in their own media over that effort and have spent the week paying homage to the All Blacks and their quest for an unbeaten season. That would have made Irish teams of the past bristle and prepare to give the visitors a harrowing time of it. However, injuries have decimated Ireland to date and the loss to an Australian team which has struggled all year may be a sign of concern ahead of the New Zealand contest.

The All Blacks have been victors over France and England in games that were tighter than they may have imagined. They were given a vigorous workout in both matches and can expect to face an Ireland team with similar intent. Coach Steve Hansen has placed faith in some of the side's up and comers and while there is a core of strength and experience through the side it will be an interesting test for some of those younger players.

WE THINK: The favouritism must be with New Zealand. The continuing record of success over Ireland, they have never beaten the All Blacks, is a significant hurdle psychologically for the home team and at the same time a huge incentive for the New Zealanders not to be on the first side to lost to Ireland. While there are changes to the All Blacks side, there is familiarity with the team pattern and that will ensure the running continuity play can be expected to continue. The question will be whether the Irish defence can cope with that, and it must be acknowledged that some of the tackling of past Ireland teams has been a wonderful asset. But parity in the set pieces will be an absolute must for Ireland if they are to tie down the New Zealanders. Given the explosive nature, and their ability to move the ball quickly to effect in any turnover situation, the All Blacks must be the pacesetters in this game. 

TEAMS:

IRELAND: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 David Kearney, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell (capt), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.

Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Mike McCarthy, 20 Kevin McLaughlin, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Luke Fitzgerald.

NEW ZEALAND: 1.Wyatt Crockett, 2.Andrew Hore, 3.Charlie Faumuina, 4.Luke Romano, 5.Samuel Whitelock, 6.Steven Luatua, 7.Richie McCaw (captain), 8.Kieran Read, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Aaron Cruden, 11.Julian Savea, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.Ben Smith, 14.Cory Jane, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Dane Coles, 17.Ben Franks, 18.Owen Franks, 19.Brodie Retallick, 20.Sam Cane, 21.TJ Perenara, 22.Beauden Barrett, 23.Ryan Crotty.

REFEREE: Nigel Owens (Wales)