Ireland out to go one better
June 20, 2012
Ireland skipper Brian O'Driscoll reflects on defeat in Christchurch © Getty Images
After one of the most heartbreaking Test defeats in recent memory, Ireland must now gear-up for another shot at New Zealand in Hamilton on Saturday.
A capacity crowd is expected at Waikato Stadium and Ireland will be keen to finish the job they started in Christchurch last weekend.
Dan Carter's drop-goal at the death denied the tourists the chance of a first-ever win over the All Blacks last time out and they must use their anger and frustration constructively against a home side that is unlikely to underperform two weeks in a row.
New Zealand - Player to Watch: Hosea Gear has the ability to light up almost any stage he plays on. He missed out selection for the 2011 World Cup but he is someone who Ireland will need to keep their eye on if they are to prevail come Saturday.
New Zealand - Team News: Aaron Cruden is handed the fly-half spot in place of the injured Dan Carter. Elsewhere, captain Richie McCaw switches from openside flanker to No.8 in the place of Kieran Read who is sidelined through concussion. McCaw will team up with Liam Messam and Sam Cane in the back-row with the latter making his first Test start. There is also a Test debut for lock Luke Romano, while wings Hosea Gear and Ben Smith are handed a chance to impress ahead of Zac Guildford and Julian Savea.
Ireland - Player to Watch: Keith Earls is back on the wing and in a match where Ireland will have to capitalise on any chances they are given, Earls will need to be at his very best against the All Blacks.
Ireland - Team News: Ireland have made three changes to the side that lost in heartbreaking fashion last weekend. Keith Earls starts on the wing with Andrew Trimble dropping to the bench. Elsewhere, Paddy Wallace starts at inside centre in place of Gordon D'Arcy with Peter O'Mahony starting instead of Jamie Heaslip.
Key Battle: Ronan O'Gara played well when he came off the bench last weekend so the pressure is on Jonny Sexton to perform. Aaron Cruden is stepping out of Dan Carter's shadow to take the fly-half spot for the All Blacks so it should be a fascinating battle.
Trivia: Last weekend's game was the first time since 1992 that Ireland finished within one score of the All Blacks.
Stats: Dan Carter's drop-goal last weekend was only his fifth in Tests, 31 less than his nearest rival at the top of the all-time scoring charts, Jonny Wilkinson. The All Black playmaker has scored 29 tries to Wilkinson's seven, however.
"The big thing tonight is that we have beaten an Irish side that has, probably, played as good as they could have. We didn't play great." - New Zealand coach Steve Hansen.
"It was an intimate stadium and they certainly felt it was a ridgey didge, or a fair dinkum, Test match and they were totally engaged in it. They played well but they couldn't break us. It was fantastic, what the boys did, but unfortunately you want to win and that is the taste that is left in your mouth." - Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss.
Prediction: The All Blacks will complete a series whitewash with a confident performance.
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