Ireland will face a vastly different All Black team this time around
On that day, New Zealand could not control the gain line as a clinical Irish team found themselves on top early. They whipped the ball wide as frequently as they liked and ran over the All Blacks all day long in a commanding performance that forced the visitors into 232 tackles.
Seven months is a long time in international rugby and the All Blacks will make wholesale changes to that losing side.
His service from the base of the ruck was not his best that day. Multiple times Anton Lienert-Brown rushed in to play halfback in a panicked frenzy, stepping over Perenara’s toes as the side couldn’t settle down and get into a flow early in the game.
Lienert-Brown will also not be on the field, having succumbed to injury, forcing the All Blacks to think up a new midfield.
The absence of Joe Moody will be another big difference. It might not seem like much, but when a player is off by five percent, it is significant.
The ever-reliable hard man was clearly not his best in last year’s test. Such are the demands of the global calendar, Moody was one of a few All Blacks walking off the line when on defence, pausing for a rest before the ball came his way on occasion.
He was slipping off multiple tackles less than a half hour in, a sign that not all was right.
Intensity and energy you bring off-the-ball at test level is a big difference maker. Some All Blacks were below their best in this aspect of play, and David Havili’s comments to media on Tuesday suggest there may have been a few tired bodies in that match.
If Moody was healthy, no doubt he would give a much better showing this time around, with next month’s test series coming earlier in the season. His injury will open the door for Crusaders teammate George Bower to take over at loosehead.
Furthermore, last year’s starting blindside flanker, Ethan Blackadder, is also out.
He put in an industrious performance that afternoon with plenty of work rate, but was lacking in effectiveness to help the All Blacks stop the Irish roll as the Kiwis made an insane amount of tackles without being able to turn over the ball.
Elsewhere, star first-five Beauden Barrett was gone after 20 minutes after suffering a concussion.
The Blues playmaker has played his way into vintage attacking form this season, rediscovering his sharp running game. Odds are he will resuming the starting role at No 10 in next Saturday’s first test in Auckland.
Then there are the new or returning faces.
The last time Ireland visited these shores, a young Julian Savea romped to a hat-trick on debut. History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme sometimes.
Jack Goodhue is fit and healthy and was back to some of his best form in the Crusaders’ Super Rugby Pacific final win over the Blues. Given his defensive ability at test level, he is a good chance of taking over the 13 jersey off Ioane to give the midfield some much needed experience in Lienert-Brown’s absence.
Aaron Smith is back at halfback and will presumably start with the explosive Folau Fakatava available to provide impact from the bench, while returning captain Sam Cane should start at No 7, forcing Dalton Papalii back to the bench.
That means many as seven new players will take over starting roles, and if you credit Mo’unga with having played most of the match last time after Barrett’s knock, that would make it eight.
Perhaps there will be more, depending on how the selectors want to play, but it will be a vastly different side – a better one – that Ireland will have to overcome to make history by beating the All Blacks in New Zealand for the first time.
Ireland will bring maybe the best touring squad from Europe to visit New Zealand since Sir Clive Woodward’s 2003 England side, outside of the 2017 British & Irish Lions.
Although Andy Farrell’s team have not claimed a Six Nations title in the last two seasons, they have lost just three tests out of 15 in that timeframe.
Two of those three losses have been to France, currently the world’s best team, while the third loss to Wales came after an early red card to Peter O’Mahoney in the 2021 Six Nations.
Having won nine of their last 10 tests, including last November’s victory over the All Blacks, this Ireland team is in-form and playing an extremely proficient game with few weaknesses.
Ireland have a good chance to clinch at least one win on New Zealand soil over the All Blacks, and they have the players to do it, but they won’t be playing the same side from seven months ago.
They will face a younger All Black side that has been re-tooled to find something that has been missing, and we will find out if they have found it very shortly.
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