Ire­land seek­ing dou­ble over the All Blacks

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

WELLING­TON: It took the Ir­ish 111 years to beat New Zealand. To­day, they’ll be seek­ing a sec­ond win over the mighty All Blacks in two weeks.

“We are go­ing into the game as the un­der­dogs,” said New Zealand coach Steve Hansen, words that stretch the truth but will still hearten Ire­land fans who have suf­fered a cen­tury of heartache at the hands of the world’s great­est rugby team. They aren’t alone.

The All Blacks’ re­ac­tion to a loss can be gauged by the seven years since any one team beat them back to back. That was South Africa. Only two home na­tions have con­sec­u­tive wins: Wales in 1935 and 1953, and Eng­land in 2002-03. Wales hasn’t beaten them since, and Eng­land just once.

This is the size of the task fac­ing Ire­land, whose 40-29 win in Chicago on Nov. 5 was ar­guably the coun­try’s great­est mo­ment in rugby, cer­tainly in mod­ern times. Driven on by the mem­ory of An­thony Fo­ley, the pop­u­lar for­mer in­ter­na­tional who died weeks ear­lier, the Ir­ish took ad­van­tage of a sloppy All Blacks per­for­mance to score five tries. “You’d love to think that we’re fa­vorites, wouldn’t you?” Ire­land coach Joe Sch­midt said, re­act­ing to Hansen’s ear­lier re­mark. “But I wouldn’t sug­gest that Steve Hansen be­come a book­maker. “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 fa­vorites. I think ev­ery­one is due a hic­cup.” Sch­midt has ac­knowl­edged Ire­land caught the All Blacks at an “op­por­tune mo­ment” in Chicago due to the ab­sences of firstchoice locks Sam White­lock (an­kle) and Brodie Re­tal­lick (con­cus­sion), which forced Hansen to play flanker Jerome Kaino out of po­si­tion in the sec­ond row. Hansen de­fended Kaino af­ter­ward, and blamed hooker Dane Coles.

With­out White­lock and Re­tal­lick, Ire­land bossed the mauls and dis­rupted li­ne­outs, where Coles came un­der pres­sure on throw-ins. Ire­land also com­peted for kick­off ball, forc­ing more er­rors.

White­lock and Re­tal­lick are back, but Kaino is out with a mi­nor calf in­jury. Oth­er­wise, the All Blacks are at full strength, with Beau­den Bar­rett at fly­half in his first game since be­ing named world player of the year.

Ire­land, whose only change from Chicago has Sean O’Brien re­plac­ing the in­jured Jordi Mur­phy at open­side flanker, is ex­pect­ing a “Black­lash.”

“It wasn’t the New Zealand that we had been used to see­ing through­out the Rugby Cham­pi­onship,” Ire­land full­back Rob Kear­ney said, re­call­ing the game in Chicago. “Their li­ne­out was poor. Some of their han­dling was pretty poor. They con­ceded five tries in the whole (Rugby) Cham­pi­onship and we scored five against them. If we’re hon­est, it wasn’t the New Zealand that we’ve all come to know. It’s re­ally im­por­tant that we rec­og­nize and un­der­stand that.” That loss ended the All Blacks’ record 18-test win­ning run, and they be­gan a new one by thrash­ing Italy 68-10 last week­end. Next stop is Dublin, where they scored an in­jury-time try and con­ver­sion to beat the Ir­ish 24-22 on their last visit in 2014

— AP

CHICAGO: File photo shows Ire­land’s Joey Car­bery, left, cel­e­brates with Josh van der Flier, sec­ond from left, af­ter a rugby match against New Zealand, in Chicago.

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