Ireland v New Zealand: Teams and Prediction
SETTLING SCORES: Ireland will be able to gauge where they stand under coach Andy Farrell two years out from the World Cup by playing New Zealand on Saturday at Lansdowne Road.
The Irish have built up momentum with six successive Test wins but with due respect to the sides they beat – including England and Scotland – it is performances against the All Blacks that offer a more accurate barometer of progress made.
Ireland head coach Farrell said this was just the sort of challenge he and his side relished.
“What a time to be alive and be an Irish rugby player playing against the best team in the world,” said Farrell.
“This [the All Blacks] is a full-bore very experienced team and a similar side we came up against in the Rugby World Cup, certainly the front five.
“There are threats all over the field and this is the type of game we want to test ourselves against the best.
“It is a privilege to play them and we will four times in the next year.
“The tour next year [they will play three Tests] will test us to the hilt but we will really learn a lot about ourselves this weekend.”
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Johnny Sexton, who will lead the Irish side in his 101st Test, admitted past losses to the All Blacks left scars that took a long time to heal so he hopes to emerge unscathed by Saturday.
The 36-year-old playmaker has been pivotal in Ireland’s only two victories, in 2016 and 2018, over the All Blacks.
However, the 46-14 Rugby World Cup quarter-final thumping and the 24-22 loss in 2013, when the Irish came agonisingly close to securing their first ever victory over the All Blacks, left their mark.
Sexton, as ever his own greatest critic, chided himself over a missed penalty when the Irish led 22-17.
“Yes there have been a lot of scars for me against the All Blacks,” he said.
“In 2013 where we missed out by so little and I had a shot to put us two scores clear 8-9 minutes before the final whistle.
“That was a huge scar for me and took a long time to get over.”
He added: “You learn from it and bounce back from it.”
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Both sides will have participants they hope bring inside knowledge on opposing players.
The Irish have New Zealand-born trio Bundee Aki, James Lowe and Jamison Gibson Park and the All Blacks assistant coaches John Plumtree and Greg Feek were involved with Ireland under Andy Farrell’s predecessor Joe Schmidt.
“We’ve watched Ireland’s development this year with interest, particularly through the latter part of the Six Nations and last week’s big win over Japan,” All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said.
“They are certainly playing with confidence and ambition and represent a formidable challenge.”
He said they appeared to be playing a more expansive game under opposite number Andy Farrell than his predecessor Joe Schmidt.
“They are more at ease taking it wider so credit to them,” he said.
“It means you have got to open your eyes as they have other threats to what they might have had 24 months ago.”
Foster says his team are “still developing”.
“These are the games you put a marker down for, they cannot wait to give it everything,” he said.
Sexton and Barrett a duel for the ages
There is no better remedy for warming up a cold November day at Lansdowne Road than a duel between two of the greats to have played Test rugby – flyhalves Johnny Sexton and Beauden Barrett.
They have more than their position in common – although Barrett has played equally well at fullback as he did in the 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final.
Both recently reached the 100 Test cap for their country landmark and have also been crowned world player of the year – Barrett twice (2016/17) and Sexton once (2018).
However, while even at 36 Sexton remains the undisputed number one for Ireland, Barrett is battling with Richie Mo’unga for the starting spot.
They are not short of praise for each other either with Sexton describing 30-year-old Barrett as a “freak of a runner” and the latter saying his Irish opponent was “all class.”
The pressure is no less on such experienced shoulders, though, and Sexton will look for an equally effective performance running with the ball from his backs as they showed against Japan.
Barrett, for his part, will seek to show head coach Ian Foster that he is still the All Blacks’ master puppeteer.
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Players to watch:
For Ireland: New Zealand-born trio Bundee Aki, James Lowe and Jamison Gibson Park will all start for Ireland. Aki will partner with Garry Ringrose in the centres for the 14th time, which will be the much-needed experience in the midfield. The 29-year-old Lowe has been in fine form since his below-par display during the Six Nations this year. Johnny Sexton captains the side in what will be his 101st Test and the 14th time he has faced New Zealand – including the only two victories they have recorded against them (2016/18). Sexton along with halfback partner Gibson Parks will have an important role to play. Another player worth watching is Iain Henderson, who replaces Tadhg Beirne in the second row. Meanwhile, another New Zealand-born player Joey Carbery provides back-up as flyhalf on the bench.
For New Zealand: The forward pack which ran out against Wales two weeks ago has been retained, with the front row of Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Nepo Laulala. Experienced Samuel Whitelock, who will captain the side, and Brodie Retallick – which will ensure a very physical setpiece battle. Another player who has been delivering some great performances is Ardie Savea and will be out to put in another great shift. In the backs TJ Perenara is at scrumhalf, and will parnter with Beuaden Barrett. The No.10 – who played a pivotal role in the World Cup victory – gets the nod at flyhalf ahead of Richie Mo’unga. This sets him on course for an intriguing duel with the Irish opposite number and fellow Test centurion Johnny Sexton.
Head to head
Ireland v New Zealand
Last 10 encounters
@rugby365com: New Zealand by five points
Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Jamison Gibson Park, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Caelan Doris, 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Andrew Porter
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Peter O’Mahony, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Keith Earls
New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Sevu Reece, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Samuel Whitelock (captain), 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 David Havili
Date: Saturday, November 13
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 15.15 (15.15 GMT; 04.15 Sunday, November 14 NZT)
Expected weather: Mostly cloudy. High of 13°C and a low of 11°C
Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU)
Assistant Referees: Matthew Carley (RFU) & Christophe Ridley (RFU)
TMO: Tom Foley (RFU)
Source: AFP & @rugby365com