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'It's our turn to respond': All Blacks out to avoid Lions repeat

By Sam Smith
Jordie Barrett. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

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This weekend, the All Blacks will take on Ireland in the first mid-year series decider the team has played since squaring off with the British and Irish Lions in 2017.

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In that series, New Zealand scored a comfortable victory in the first test, triumphing 30-15 at Eden Park, before suffering a surprise defeat in Wellington just one week later, going down 24-21. In that second test, Sonny Bill Williams was red-carded for a dangerous tackle in the 24th minute, forcing the All Blacks to play down a man for almost three-quarters of the match. In the final game of the series, some controversial refereeing decisions in favour of the visitors ensured a tied game and a drawn series.

The All Blacks’ current series with Ireland has followed a similar pattern, with NZ earning a 42-19 victory in the first test at Eden Park before tasting defeat in Dunedin after prop Angus Ta’avao was handed a red card for a dangerous tackle. Now, the final match in Wellington will decide the series victor – and All Blacks fullback Jordie Barrett certainly doesn’t want to traverse the same road he did in 2017 in his debut series for New Zealand national side.

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“There are some obvious comparisons but I don’t want to go into it too far because hopefully, we don’t draw this next test,” Barrett said on Thursday.

“I think in terms of what’s at stake, for sure, anyone can draw their own comparisons and it’s do or die.”

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25-year-old Barrett made his test debut in the opening game of the Lions series but didn’t feature in the other two matches. Now, five years on, Barrett is a key member of the All Blacks backline and will make his third start at fullback this weekend.

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While Barrett and his teammates naturally wanted to go through the series undefeated having been well and truly acccounted for by Ireland in Dublin late last year, the success of Andy Farrell’s side over the weekend adds some extra spice to the final fixutre of the series.

“Obviously, we didn’t want to get it to a decider but that’s the way it is,” Barrett said. “It’s where you want to be, particularly as an All Black – a series decider, at home, against a quality opposition. The game can’t come quick enough for me, personally.”

While New Zealand were able to blow their opposition away at Eden Park with a slight change of tactics from their previous encounters, shifting pods of forwards wider on attack, Ireland were able to effectively counter the change-up in the second test – and the All Blacks had no response. Now, Barrett and his teammates will be hoping to turn the tables on the visitors.

“Ireland are a quality side and we spoke a week ago and the boys knew there was going to be a response from them so in some ways it’s our turn to respond now,” said Barrett, “and we feel a lot of it is in our control in the way we can influence this match so our preparation’s been great.

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“But that’s not everything, we’ve still got to put a performance on the park and get the job done because it’s not going to be easy.”

Barrett says that while it might have initially been difficult to turn around following last weekend’s loss and kick back into gear, the All Blacks are now well-placed heading into Saturday’s decider.

“Right now [the mood] is good. We’re deep into a week of great preparation. There’s no hiding there was some obvious disappointment Saturday night, Sunday morning, and even leaking into Monday.

“It’s a fresh week, an exciting opportunity, a series decider against a quality side. There’s some positive faces and positive moods in camp at the moment so we’re rearing to go.”

Saturday’s clash is due to kick off at 7:05pm NZT at Sky Stadium in Wellington.

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