Preview: New Zealand v Ireland

Date published: June 22 2012

New Zealand will be keen to show that the scare which Ireland gave them last week was just that in Saturday's final Test in Hamilton.

New Zealand will be keen to show that the scare which Ireland gave them last week was just that in Saturday's final Test in Hamilton.

The All Blacks have come in for plenty of criticism after their disappointing showing in Christchurch and although they have secured the series thanks to some late heroics from Dan Carter, New Zealand's rugby supporters will expect nothing less than a convincing win from last year's World Cup winners.

The Kiwis will gain some comfort from the result of their previous Test played against Ireland in Hamilton, in 2006, when they ran out 34-23 winners.

While Ireland deserve credit for last week's performance, the hosts seldom play poorly in successive matches and several of the men in black will be looking to restore their reputations after below par performances.

None more so than captain Richie McCaw, who will be the first to admit that he came off second best in his battle with Ireland openside flanker Sean O'Brien at the breakdowns.

McCaw, who will be starting for the 100th time in his illustrious 105-Test career, has always worn the number seven jersey but moves to number eight for the first time. It will be interesting to see how he fares at the base of the scrum in a combination with Chiefs duo Liam Messam and Sam Cane on the flanks.

An area of McCaw's game which let him down last week is his ball-handling – he made four knock-ons during the second half in Christchurch.

After coming close to matching their best ever result against the All Blacks (a 10-10 draw in Dublin in 1973) Ireland coach Declan Kidney and his charges have to start from scratch again this week.

The best thing for them to do is to forget about that result and start afresh. It will not be an easy task though – but then again it has never been for any country against New Zealand on their own turf. But the Irish will have plenty to build on as there were facets of last week's game in which they actually dominated their hosts.

Ireland's effort during the first half in Christchurch, especially in the tight exchanges, caught the All Blacks by surprise and if they can repeat that effort for 80 minutes they could pull of what has been impossible in 26 previous encounters.

Their task was made more difficult when seasoned stalwarts Gordon D'Arcy and Jamie Heaslip were sidelined through injury for this Test and much is expected of their replacements, Paddy Wallace and Peter O'Mahony.

This weekend's clash will be a momentous occasion for Brian O'Driscoll, who will equal former Springbok skipper John Smit's international record of 83 Tests as captain. It's the 82nd time that O'Driscoll has led Ireland with his other appearance as a Test captain coming as skipper to the British and Irish Lions in the infamous first Test against New Zealand in 2005.

Players to watch:

For New Zealand: New All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden has big boots to fill after he was named as Dan Carter's replacement. Carter was in sublime form in Auckland and Christchurch and there will be plenty of pressure on Cruden replicate those displays. What will help is the fact that he is playing in front of his home crowd, who have witnessed several commanding Super Rugby performances from Cruden for the Chiefs this year.

For Ireland: Ireland inside centre Paddy Wallace has been brought straight in as Gordon D'Arcy's replacement and must play a blinder to convince his detractors (who seem to be in the majority amongst Irish supporters) that he is a player of international standard. Wallace joined the squad earlier this week and will have to hit the ground running as his direct opponent – Sonny Bill Williams – will be out to impress after a subdued performance in Christchurch.

Head-to-head: The clash between Ireland's Sean O'Brien and Sam Cane of New Zealand for supremacy at the breakdowns will be an important factor in this match. Adding spice to this duel is the presence of the supreme forager, Richie McCaw, at number eight for the All Blacks. McCaw will also want to prove that he can do damage to Ireland's cause, irrespective of the number on his back, by making his presence felt in the tight-loose.

Previous results:
2012: Ireland lost 22-19 in Christchurch
2012: Ireland lost 42-10 in Auckland
2010: Ireland lost 38-18 at Aviva Stadium
2010: Ireland lost 66-28 in New Plymouth
2008: Ireland lost 3-22 at Croke Park
2008: Ireland lost 21-11 in Wellington
2006: Ireland lost 27-17 in Auckland
2006: Ireland lost 24-23 in Hamilton
2005: Ireland lost 7-45 at Lansdowne Road
2002: Ireland lost 40-8 in Auckland
2002: Ireland lost 15-6 in Dunedin
2001: Ireland lost 29-40 at Lansdowne Road

Prediction: Although this is not the strongest All Blacks side, they will do everything to protect their proud record of never having lost a Test to Ireland. Losing D'Arcy and particularly Heaslip will be a massive blow to the visitors and don't be surprised if they come up short again. New Zealand by eight points!

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Richie McCaw (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Brodie Retallick, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Beauden Barrett, 22 Tamati Ellison.

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (c), 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Peter O'Mahony, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Declan Fitzpatrick, 18 Donncha O'Callaghan, 19 Chris Henry, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Andrew Trimble.

Date: Saturday, June 23
Kick-off: 19:35 (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Weather:Rain from afternoon, heavy at night. Northwesterly wind blowing. Min 9°C, Max 16°C
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzere (France), James Leckie (Australia)
Television match official: Matt Goddard (Australia)

by David Skippers