6 Jun

NZ v Ireland Preview
by WAJ
6 Jun 2008

Whilst Dingo Deans goes quietly about his business whipping the Awestruckenfailians into shape on and around Manly Beach in Sydney, back in Aotearoa sections of the rugby public and media are whipping themselves into an awful frenzy now that that awful Henry has the spotlight again with the first All Black test of the year.

That it is all about Henry and Deans to me is very disappointing, this furore can’t be helped due to that horrific World Cup failure and Henry’s subsequent re-appointment. But re-appointed he was and shouldn’t we now get on with following the All Blacks – too simplistic by far I know!

So what can we expect on Saturday night?

By all accounts this is the biggest Irish challenge for many a year. They are full of confidence and are going to give us a real fright if not beat us. The pack is 7/8 Munster who held all before them in the European Cup just completed and beat the mighty Toulouse in the final.

Then they have O’Hara at flyhalf, of whom many pundits declare is one of the very best going around, and then there is the peerless BOD etc etc. But hold a minute – is this not the same team who couldn’t even make the World Cup playoffs, in fact barely raised a whimper all tournament, and then went on to finish a lacklustre fourth in the Six Nations.

And whilst Munster should rightly be proud of their achievement, they are basically a club side who would probably be competitive at best in the S14. They have a real weakness at scrum time with a less than solid front row, off set it must be said by a very good lineout. But all in all carry a reputation far bigger than it should be.

And what about the All Blacks. You don’t think they haven’t got something to play for – new caps desperate to make an impression, reselected players desperate to cement their spot, World Cup failures desperate to make amends, a captain desperate to show his credentials. Looking at the team there is a solid look about the front row and expect to see a lot of pressure on Irish ball from the Afoa/Hore axis, Thorn is just the type of player to revel in the tight against the stubborn Irish, a loose trio with size and mobility and some outside backs that will be wanting to put some inconsistent and unflattering S14 form behind them.

The key to a good performance could well be the enigma that is Ma’a Nonu – coming into the test with some of his most consistent rugby behind him over the latter stages of the S14, and outside the genius that is Dan Carter, he will be aimed at the less than robust O’Hara and out of position Wallace to cut a merry caper.

I expect a typical All Blacks v Irish game and result. The All Blacks need to absorb the early pressure and then use their more gifted loosies and backs to score a comfortable win.

All Blacks 15+

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