Ireland head coach Andy Farrell insists that the team have to go up a level if they are to defeat New Zealand away from home.
In their last battle, the Irishmen came out on top after securing a thoroughly deserved 29-20 triumph over the All Blacks in Dublin.
Ian Foster’s men will be out for revenge and go into the upcoming series as heavy favourites, despite their disappointing form in 2021.
It means that Farrell is wary rather than confident, but the head coach is excited about the opportunity of facing the All Blacks in the southern hemisphere.
Element of nerves
“I wouldn’t say (we’ll have) confidence because every time you put an Irish shirt on there’s always an element of nerves and hope we can perform and can be as good as we were then,” he told reporters.
“But in reality, the boys know that that’s not going to be good enough this time round.
“We know what we’re coming up against. We know that it’s a different kettle of fish, Eden Park first up. We know how special that place is to the All Blacks. It’s great for us though.
“We want to see ourselves under extreme pressure and how we deal with that so therefore it’s good all round.”
New Zealand’s fans and media have been typically self-assured, upping the ante with some provocative billboards in the lead-up to the series.
One read: “0 Wins In NZ” while another has said: “4 Kiwis On The Team. That Might Help Your Odds A Little”, referring to the splattering of New Zealand-born players in the Ireland squad.
Farrell was unflustered and instead relished the pre-Test jibes, saying: “We’ve seen a few billboards that are up there, which are great.
“Walking through the streets of Auckland, there’s always a back-handed compliment shall we say, which is great. It’s what we expect and we love that.”
Fortress Eden Park
Ireland have also been reminded that New Zealand have not lost at Eden Park – the venue of the first Test – since 1994.
“It’s true,” Farrell said. “That’s the reality of it, you know, we take it on the chin and we move onto the next one, don’t we?
“Some guys are playing against the Maori team on Wednesday night and they’ve been dying for a chance to play in big games and it doesn’t get any bigger for them so it’s a great challenge all-round.
“Then players being out of their comfort zone, five or six of them backing up in a Test match on Saturday against the All Blacks, it doesn’t get more challenging but at the same time, it’s where we want to be.
“We want to be at a stage where a year or so out from a World Cup we want to find out more about ourselves and this is a perfect place to do that.”