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Saturday 10 December 2016

Toner fears the impact of key man Retallick

New Zealand’s Brodie Retallick deadlifts during a gym session at the Irish Institute of Sport yesterday in Dublin. Pic: Getty Images
New Zealand’s Brodie Retallick deadlifts during a gym session at the Irish Institute of Sport yesterday in Dublin. Pic: Getty Images

The mountainous task ahead of Ireland was reflected in how New Zealand swept up the World Team of the Year, Coach of the Year and Player of the Year awards.

Beauden Barrett merely maintains the chain of excellence as the fifth consecutive All Black to win the ultimate individual reward in the game.

It should not be overlooked that their captain Kieran Read, the recipient in 2013, and their returning second row Brodie Retallick, who followed on in 2014, will also take to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

What Chicago showed above all else is how important Retallick is to the way the All Blacks play the game.

There are not many better placed to assess the 25-year-old Waikato wonder than Ireland's lineout king Devin Toner.

"There's a reason why he's known as one of the best locks in the world," he said.

The 6'8", 120kg (or 19 stones in old money) All Black is more than just a large unit capable of physically dominating.

"He's a powerful player and he adds a lot to the scrum, the maul and in the air."

When it comes to the lineout chess match, the presence of Retallick will make a difference to New Zealand and

"In the back of our heads, we know he's going to be there, so I might have a few different calls," said Toner.

It doesn't end there.

There are the subtleties that separate him from most other international second rows.

"He's great at those link passes.

"What we need to do is get off the line as quick as we can to make sure he doesn't have time on the ball to do them."

It says everything about the impact of Retallick that Ireland will target him for his danger on the ball as a distributor.

The myth of the super-human All Blacks has finally been dispelled for Ireland.

"I think everyone's beatable. Everyone can say it is only 15 men against 15 men," he said.

However, it needed New Zealand to be less than themselves and Ireland to be all that they could be to make it happen.

"They did have an 'off day'," admitted Toner.

"There were a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes that they made. It's going to be a completely different challenge this weekend."

It is doubtful whether Irish lightening can strike twice in two weeks.

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