All Blacks prepare for revenge mission against Ireland
'Arrogant' New Zealand recall the big guns as they face Ireland in Dublin two weeks after shock defeat in Chicago
The All Blacks have been accused of "arrogance" on the eve of their eagerly-awaited rematch against Ireland. Two weeks ago in Chicago the Irish pulled off the greatest win in their history, smashing the reigning world champions 40-29. It was the first time that the men in green had beaten New Zealand in 111 years of trying and the result brought to an end the All Blacks' record 18-match unbeaten run.
And according to former Ireland wing Luke Fitzgerald it was what the All Blacks deserved for selecting a side missing some of their big names. "I think they showed a little bit of arrogance there and lack of respect with some of their selections," said Fitzgerald, who was forced into early retirement earlier this year after winning 34 caps.
Accusing New Zealand of failing to do their research on Ireland before the match in Chicago, Fitzgerald said: "I'd say they were a little bit under-cooked in that department and, from my own perspective, some of the selection mistakes they made they won't make them again.”
Ireland's task in Dublin tomorrow is a mighty one. The last nation to beat the All Blacks in back-to-back Tests was South Africa in 2009, and the tourists will run out at the Aviva Stadium determined to avenge their Chicago defeat.
Italy have already felt their wrath, on the wrong end of a 68-10 scoreline in Rome last Saturday, and Ireland acknowledge that it will be a different New Zealand in Dublin to the cack-handed Kiwis they played a fortnight ago.
"I think they played pretty poorly, albeit we didn't give them a huge amount of ball to work with and we put them under pressure and we forced some errors," said full-back Rob Kearney. "It wasn't the New Zealand that we had been used to seeing throughout The Rugby Championship. Their lineout was poor. Some of their handling was pretty poor. They conceded five tries in the whole Championship and we score five against them."
Nonetheless Kearney was quick to add that Ireland are bursting with self-belief and go into the match with a fierce determination of their own.
"The fact is that we've beaten them once, we've gotten the monkey off our back for the history books and for every other Irish team that plays them," explained Kearney, who had lost to New Zealand on eight previous occasions.
"Sometimes Irish teams in the past may have been guilty of getting up for one game, putting in a massive performance and not turning up the following week. If we want to be really successful down the line, and compete really strongly at World Cups, you need to back it up five, six, seven weeks on the bounce. And there's no more perfect time than now.”
As expected Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has gone with his History Boys XV of a fortnight ago, the only change being the selection at flanker of Sean O'Brien in place of the injured Jordi Murphy.
His All Black counterpart, however, Steve Hansen, has made several changes to the XV that lost in Chicago. In the backs Israel Dagg, Malakai Fekitoa, Anton Lienert-Brown come in while in the pack there's a return for the vastly experienced second row pair of Samuel Whitelock and Brodie Retallick.
"It is a challenge that this team needs right now and how we respond will tell us a lot about ourselves," said coach Steve Hansen, who boasts a 92 per cent win record in his four years in charge. "We know the challenge we face from Ireland will again be massive and we are going into the game as the underdogs. They'll be full of confidence and committed to delivering on their home patch."
But New Zealand will have extra motivation this weekend. Just as Ireland were inspired in Chicago by the memory of former skipper Anthony Foley, who died suddenly last month at the age of 42, so the All Blacks will be driven by memories of a former great.
This weekend sees the first anniversary of the death of the legendary Jonah Lomu and the New Zealanders have revealed that the giant winger, who helped revolutionise the game in the 1990s, has been in their thoughts in the build-up to the clash.
And despite events in the US another Ireland win would come as a huge surprise. So, when told that Hansen had installed Ireland as favourites, Ireland coach Schmidt - himself a Kiwi - joked: "I wouldn't suggest that Steve Hansen become a bookmaker. I think we're at about 6-1. Not that we're allowed to indulge in that. It's a bit better than the 13-1 we were in Chicago. You certainly wouldn't put us as favourites"
Ireland vs New Zealand: 5.30pm Saturday, Dublin - Sky Sports 2 / RTE 2