Ireland aware of challenge on New Zealand soil

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There is an acknowledgement that Ireland have enjoyed the first three wins of their history against the All Blacks in their last five encounters, but there is also an awareness that this series is being played on the New Zealanders home soil.

 

Irish Mail on Sunday writer Rory Keane said Ireland had been trying to recapture the magic of their win over the All Blacks in November.

 

"They will need to replicate the same intensity, accuracy and cohesion in the coming weeks to stand any chance on Kiwi soil. If anything they need to find another gear.

 

"They could do with finding a few more options, especially at prop, lock and out-half [first five-eighths]. Therein lies the dilemma for the Ireland head coach [Andy Farrell] on this tour.

 

"The galvanising effect of a maiden win in New Zealand or, dare we dream, a series victory would inject unquantifiable levels of confidence into this operation," he said.

 

New Zealand would line-up at Eden Park 'loaded with attacking artillery.'

"Consider that Ireland continue to lean on a soon-to-be 36-year-old as conductor in chief…As ever, they are flush with dangerous backs. Their pack doesn't inspire the same fear but any unit with Codie Taylor, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane and Ardie Savea on board demands respect," he said.

 

Neil Francis in The Sunday Times said Ireland had proved in the last decade they were capable of beating anyone, except at World Cups.

 

"We have now arrived at a point where we are about to learn a lot about ourselves as a rugby nation and maybe realise that 40 years of evolution might not count for much in New Zealand," he said.

 

"The recent Super Rugby final, while not the free-flowing spectacle we anticipated, was a competition played at a Test match intensity. It was a final All Blacks trial and if the way the match was played is indicative of what type of game Ireland are going to get in Auckland – well, the men in green are in trouble.

 

"It could come down to how New Zealand decide to play in Auckland. They could be rusty and there is no better way to get into a Test series than by muscling your way into it. It is no accident that the first Test is being played there.

 

"Set a platform and Ireland might not recover in time for the second Test in Dunedin – a match you would have thought would have given them a chance under the roof at the Forsyth Barr Stadium."

Francis was concerned about tighthead prop Tadgh Furlong and first five-eighths Johnny Sexton.

 

"Tadgh Furlong had a long rest in 2021 but showed signs of fraying at the edges in the big games at the end of the season, and if he falters Ireland are in real trouble," he said.

 

Furlong would need to play at least 70 minutes a Test.

 

"Tightheads won't win you a Test series or a World Cup, but if you don't have one you won't get anywhere," he said.

 

"The No 10 and No 3 positions are the most important on the field. Ireland have true world-class in those positions but both are fragile at any given moment and this is not going to be a good tour for the team if they are lost.

 

"The players mooted to replace Sexton are either not good enough or consistent enough to play for seven or eight years after he is gone, which might not necessarily be after the World Cup. The call is to pick the proper heir to Sexton because I don't think Ireland are going to get a lot out of this tour," he said.

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