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Irish out to stop All Blacks improving too much

Photosport

NZPA     14 Jun 2006     Photosport

Handling errors, defensive lapses and lineout difficulties were among the problems the All Blacks faced last Saturday when coming from eight points behind to beat Ireland 34-23.

Many believe the Hamilton Test was Ireland's best chance of beating New Zealand for the first time, as history suggests the All Blacks often improve markedly when they have scored narrow victories in first-up matches.

But Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll said his team planned to limit the impact of any All Blacks improvement.

"I'm sure they've got an element of the rustiness out of their game... but I think it's very dependant on how we perform," he said.

"I'm sure that there mightn't be as many unforced errors (from the All Blacks) but hopefully as many forced errors, because defences do win games and we will need to up our performance defensively again if we're to do so."

O'Driscoll was in the Irish team four years ago when they lost the second test 8-40 after a close 6-15 loss a week earlier, and he did not want a repeat of that.

"The All Blacks are certainly going to be better than they were at the weekend, history's shown that, but we'd like to think that we've something in reserve as well.

"We don't want to be another one of those sides that plays well in the first test and is narrowly beaten and then capitulates in the second test."

Ireland didn't need to make many improvements other than be more accurate in the way they played in Hamilton, and to do that for the entire 80 minutes, he said.

"Looking back on some of the video footage, we had more opportunities to score tries and score points and we didn't take them and you have to do that against the All Blacks," O'Driscoll said.

"Had Luke McAlister not intercepted that ball and we'd scored it might have been a totally different situation but Test matches are sometimes decided on small instinctive situations like that and we came off on the wrong side of that particular situation.

"It is frustrating because we do want to be the team that makes history to beat the All Blacks. We want to separate ourselves from the Irish teams that have gone before and not really achieved anything down here."

Coach Eddie O'Sullivan yesterday named an unchanged Irish team to face the All Blacks, though one reserve back had not been named due to concern over a recurring leg injury to fullback Geordan Murphy, the team's back-up first five-eighth to Ronan O'Gara.

O'Sullivan and O'Driscoll admitted they targeted the All Blacks' midfield of Ma'a Nonu and Aaron Mauger in the first Test. The home selectors have replaced Nonu with Casey Laulala for the second test, though they said it was purely due to rotation.