herald

Monday 23 April 2018

New Zealand will have the physical edge

IT IS not just the Munster, Ulster and Connacht contingent that have to absorb Joe Schmidt's information until it becomes instinct.

Ireland v New Zealand

Aviva Stadium, Sunday

(Live RTé2 2.0)

 

By that, it is meant as something you just do, not think about doing and then following through. Brian O'Driscoll has held his hand up for the errors he has made.

This is a measure of the man. He knew he had to sit front and centre of the mass media this week to take a fair share of the flak for what happened against Australia.

It is an old trick picked up from his national coach Joe Schmidt, who always turned out as the face of Leinster rugby when someone had to take the heat for an unacceptable performance.

O'Driscoll was man enough to take the heat, but also to turn it up, on himself and on the other players. They have to show a reaction through their passion and in their defensive mindset.

The challenge to put line speed into the Irish defensive vocabulary depends to a large extent on what is happening at the breakdown.

If New Zealand generate quick ball, the Irish will struggle to get back into position to make a defensive read, never mind get properly aligned to advance with pace as one.

The back-row unit in tandem with Cian Healy, Rory Best and Paul O'Connell must work feverishly to slow down the All Blacks' ball, so that the defence can get set and get into their faces.

The only way to get close to beating the All Blacks is by physically dominating them. That is why South Africa (38-27), France (26-19) and England (30-22) have given them trouble.

The problem for Ireland is that they won't have the physical specimens to smash the scrum, pillage the line-out and boss the contact area.

At least, they won't if they come out with the same inaccuracy at the line-out and passive attitude to defence and the breakdown that they brought to Australia.

This is the time for leaders to take Ireland forward physically, to let New Zealand know that they will have to play to their standards to complete their season unbeaten in 14 internationals.

Rookie blindside flanker Steven Luatua is one of five changes to the New Zealand pack that beat England 30-22 last week at Twickenham.

Lock Luke Romano was a first choice earlier in the season before getting injured and tighthead Charlie Faumuina's play has seen him challenging Owen Franks for the starting role.

The vastly experienced Andrew Hore has replaced Keven Mealamu at hooker, while Wyatt Crockett has come in for the injured Tony Woodcock.

NEW ZEALAND: I Dagg; C Jane, C Smith, Ma'a Nonu, J Savea; A Cruden, A Smith, W Crockett, A Hore, C Faumuina, S Whitelock, L Romano, S Luatua, R McCaw (capt), K Read.

Verdict: New Zealand

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