Preview: Ireland v New Zealand

Date published: November 4 2016

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It's been three years since Aaron Cruden converted Ryan Crotty's late try to secure a win for New Zealand and break Irish hearts in Dublin.

That result at the Aviva Stadium meant so much to the All Blacks as they ended 2013 with a 100 percent record in Tests in a thrilling game.

Ireland were understandably distraught after all their hard work had come to nothing, but it was a much-improved effort from 60-0 in 2012.

What they will have gained from the narrow defeat is that they can compete with the All Blacks and after a long shift in Super Rugby, June and the Rugby Championship, the driving force for Ireland will now be to find out if New Zealand are feeling the effects of so much rugby.

Steve Hansen is without three of his second-rows but that appears to be the only real concern for him from a coaching viewpoint. Possibly the goal-kicking of Beauden Barrett is something that needs addressing, as winning fixtures via tries alone will not continue forever, no matter how well they play. Barrett has been outstanding this year but if he cannot sort out his strike then Hansen has to look elsewhere.

Hansen has though managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat in terms of selection as Jerome Kaino starts at lock, with Scott Barrett on the bench. Sam Cane and Liam Squire are the flankers while George Moala gets the nod at centre alongside Ryan Crotty. Aaron Smith is at nine.

Smith will be desperate to return to the rugby field in Chicago this weekend and with TJ Perenara having put the pressure on with brilliant performances in his absence, how the Highlander goes will be an interesting watch. Patrick Tuipulotu also has a big opportunity to impress.

Ireland, whose form has dipped since back-to-back Six Nations success in 2014 and 2015, enter Soldier Field without Iain Henderson, Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien. They do however have Rob Kearney back at full-back, behind a solid midfield of Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne.

But this is surely going to be a huge ask for Ireland to hit the ground running in their first international since June, with New Zealand, in contrast, having blown their Rugby Championship rivals away only a month ago. Expect Ireland's winless drought against them to continue.

Players to watch:

For Ireland: With Sean O'Brien still to return, Ireland must rely on the power of Jack McGrath and CJ Stander while Jordi Murphy and Jamie Heaslip will also add their unique strengths to the cause. McGrath is surely currently a player on Warren Gatland's Lions squad list after his consistent performances for his country over the past couple of years. He'll relish his personal battle with Owen Franks, as will many.

For New Zealand: Back in the side after an injury, Sam Cane usurps Matt Todd and Ardie Savea to the seven jersey. Todd filled in admirably last time out while Savea is very much a work in progress, bursting with talent so this is a position that has depth. Cane will rise to a challenge – as he did whenever he was given a rare chance in Richie McCaw's era – so expect him to slot back in seamlessly this Saturday.

Head-to-head: The Irish need a commanding performance from Johnny Sexton or they will not win this game. When bossing his team-mates while also being solid with his running and kicking game, there are few better fly-halves in the world. We have not seen that from Sexton for a while and Chicago on Saturday is the perfect opportunity for the Leinsterman to put that right against an untried All Black midfield duo. Meanwhile all Kiwi eyes will be on Beauden Barrett especially off the kicking tee following his recent woes. As already mentioned the All Blacks simply cannot persist with such a low percentage goal-kicker, with Barrett set to be eager to prove he has the nerve this weekend.

Previous results:

2013: New Zealand won 24-22 in Dublin
2012: New Zealand won 60-0 in Hamilton
2012: New Zealand won 22-19 in Christchurch
2012: New Zealand won 42-10 in Auckland
2010: New Zealand won 38-18 in Dublin
2010: New Zealand won 66-28 in New Plymouth
2008: New Zealand won 22-3 in Dublin
2008: New Zealand won 21-11 in Wellington

Prediction: Ireland will make life difficult, mostly early on, but the All Blacks' class will then shine through. New Zealand by 15.

The teams:

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Garry Ringrose

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 George Moala, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Jerome Kaino, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Malakai Fekitoa

Date: Saturday, November 5
Venue: Soldier Field, Chicago
Kick-off: 15:00 local (20:00 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

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