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'They'll be hurting': All Blacks stars prepare for Irish backlash in Dunedin rematch

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP via Getty Images)

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The All Blacks are bracing for a strong response from Ireland after putting the visitors to the sword in the opening match of their three-test series in Auckland on Saturday.

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Running out 42-19 winners at Eden Park, the All Blacks kicked their 2022 test campaign off with a bang, proving their class as physical behemoths who outmuscled their Irish counterparts to score an impressive victory.

New Zealand’s efforts were so far removed from last November’s 29-20 defeat at the hands of Ireland in Dublin that there is a definite sense of optimism about what Ian Foster’s men can produce throughout the remainder of the series.

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However, while they overpowered Ireland in dominant fashion over the weekend, the All Blacks remain grounded as they prepare for this weekend’s rematch at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

In fact, the Kiwis are expecting fierce backlash from Andy Farrell’s side, who All Blacks prop George Bower said will be eager to level the series after failing to fire two days ago.

“They’ll start off hissing and I’m sure they’ll come back even stronger,” Bower said in the aftermath of the first test.

“They’ll be hurting after today. We’ve got to prepare for that and we’ve got another week for that.”

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Bower’s sentiments were echoed by teammate Quinn Tupaea, who shone at second-five after effectively being handed the No 12 jersey on a platter due to the Covid-enforced absences of David Havili and Jack Goodhue.

Marking his first Eden Park test with a try in the midst of a prolific end to the first half for the All Blacks, Tupaea was among New Zealand’s best, but maintained that the hosts must back Saturday’s showing up by sharpening their ruck defence in Dunedin.

“They’re a world-class team. They know their attack plan really well. They’ve got some big forwards and backs,” Tupaea said of the Irish.

“We just need to tighten up a bit around our hard D around our rucks. That’s where they’ll get us. Their backs swing from side to side quite well and it’s pretty hard to defend at times. A lot to clean up, but we’re happy with how we performed tonight.”

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Star fullback Jordie Barrett added that the All Blacks would be “delusional to think Ireland aren’t going to throw a shot next week”, while Ardie Savea revealed how last year’s loss fuelled New Zealand’s desire to come up trumps this time round.

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Savea, the standout No 8 who was in phenomenal form as he crossed for two tries, featured in the defeat to Ireland eight months ago, and said those who joined him in that losing effort at Aviva Stadium weren’t short of motivation on home soil.

“There’s a few individuals who played in that test last year, so there’s a few of us that kind of used that in our own individual way and created an edge and that fire in our gut for today to prove a point,” he said.

Foster, meanwhile, was tight-lipped when asked about what to expect from Ireland in Dunedin, telling media that he was the wrong person to ask such a question.

By contrast, his opposite Farrell issued a statement of intent shortly after the loss as his players eye redemption in the coming days.

“We’re gutted to lose. You don’t get many opportunities to break a record, and it’s an outstanding record, and you can see why they hold that here,” he said, referencing the 28-year unbeaten streak the All Blacks hold at Eden Park.

“We’re gutted to lose, but having said that, the players know what they did well, and they know how the game flowed and things that we need to fix to stay in a series for next week, so it isn’t a dejected changing room.

“It’s one that will dust itself off, learn the lessons and attack next week.”

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