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Blog: All Blacks look for new start against Irish

Updated: Wednesday, 06 Jun 2012 15:59 | Comments

BOD might not have had nearly as much game time as he would have liked this year but the challenge of winning in NZ, his sixth and perhaps final tour of the nation, will surely get the best out of the 123 Test cap veteran
BOD might not have had nearly as much game time as he would have liked this year but the challenge of winning in NZ, his sixth and perhaps final tour of the nation, will surely get the best out of the 123 Test cap veteran

By Warren Gatchell

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen's inclusion of seven uncapped players in the 30-man squad to face Ireland in the series illustrates how lessons of past World Cup winning sides have not been lost on this coaching unit.

The dreaded post World Cup hangover struck down both England and South Africa and it is why selectors Ian Foster and Grant Fox are injecting new life into the squad to keep regular starters on their toes.

"We have a little bit of an eye to the future," Fox told Radio Sport NZ.

"There some guys in the group who are aging a little bit.

“We're not looking too far ahead (but) we want to get that blend right and start setting things up and (flyhalf) Beauden Barrett is part of that mix.

“Having guys in who might not get much game time but to be in the group and learning off the best, having Beauden learning off someone like Daniel Carter and (flanker) Sam Cane learning off Richie (McCaw), how good is that?”

Youthful energy can certainly lift a team yet it is hard to see centres coming through the ranks that create as much excitement and potential to enthral as the match-up between Brian O'Driscoll and Sonny Bill Williams.

It is a clash of experience versus sheer power, Williams is in the form of his life with his table-topping Chiefs sitting pretty in Super Rugby.

BOD might not have had nearly as much game time as he would have liked this year but the challenge of winning in NZ, his sixth and perhaps final tour of the nation, will surely get the best out of the 123 Test cap veteran.

A new squad selection will always have one or two controversial decisions. The omission of in-form scrum-half Andy Ellis from the ascending Canterbury Crusaders in place of an overweight and out-of-form Piri Weepu from the bottom of the table Auckland Blues certainly fits the bill.

Hansen's loyalty to Weepu could well be tested if the starting scrum-half Aaron Smith is injured during the opening match.

No forward pack in the world could absorb the absence of players like Paul O'Connell and Stephen Ferris due to injury, along with the retirement of Denis Leamy and David Wallace. Expect to see the All Blacks target the Irish up front, keep the ball and play for the percentages in the opening stages.

Their first training session was this Sunday and while the team held private sessions, I doubt there will be too many surprises considering the relatively short amount of time the team has had together.

I hope that discipline was the strongest message during the Irish training sessions over the past few days as no other team in world rugby has the ability to punish transgressors with such ruthless efficiency, as Jamie Heaslip quickly discovered in 2010.

Ireland have the players to cause an upset. I'm not so sure if the ability to stay with the All Blacks fitness levels for the full 80 minutes is there.

The New Zealand players are finely tuned after a break in the Super Rugby season while Irish players are at the end of 10 months of rugby attrition.

For this reason along with the absence of Paul O'Connell and Stephen Ferris I’m tipping the hosts to win this one.

We all love an upset in the international calendar. Winning in the Southern Hemisphere is a tough ask for touring teams, the physicality at the end of a long rugby season can be a bridge too far.

Not so for Scotland who were elated with their 80 minute arm wrestle victory over Australia on Tuesday.

The British and Irish Lions soon found out in the third test of 2001 that there is nothing more dangerous than a wounded Wallaby.

Wales appear to be taking their tour the most seriously of the three RBS Six Nations teams playing this weekend. An advance party of 16 players was sent to Australia before the Barbarians game in Cardiff which will be of huge benefit to the tourists, something I hope more teams will do.

Wales coach Warren Gatland would have targeted the hosts up front who are without their captain James Horwill. Zimbabwean born David Pocock is an able replacement but he doesn't have the same experience under pressure of leading a team at the highest level, as was evident in the match against Scotland.

Expect to see a meat grinder performance by the Wallabies. This match looks set to be the pick of the bunch with the Grand Slam champions facing the 2011 Tri Nations winners on home soil. It is almost too close to call but I just can't see Australia losing at home twice in a row and I’m backing them to win by five points.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has selected mostly Bulls players for his first game in charge just as Gatland fielded mostly Ospreys players in his inaugural year back in 2008.

Insurance, it could well be. South Africa has an extremely unforgiving Rugby public for failure; just ask the Under 20 Springboks who lost at home to the Ireland U20 side a few days ago in the Cape.

The Boks are without John Smit, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha and Butch James due to retirement, Juan Smith, Schalk Burger and Andries Bekker due to injury along with Fourie du Preez and
Danie Rossouw who have declared themselves unavailable.

There has been an outcry that Heinrich Brussouw has been omitted from the 32-man squad with such a long list of absentees.

Brussouw has never lost a game against the All Blacks in four outings.

You could be forgiven for expecting England to walk this series but keep in mind that the battle for the top spot in Super Rugby has been a see-saw between New Zealand and South African teams, with their respective players in top form.

While the synergy required for success at test level simply won't be there after a week of training together, the new faces in the second row of Eben Etzebeth and Juandre Kruger have the potential to be two of the finest players in the post Matfield/Botha era.

Francois Steyn makes a welcome return from France and expect to see Ulster's Ruan Pienaar in the myrtle green shine as he has done throughout the European season.

This match is going to be about two forward orientated teams slugging it out until one of them starts breaking down. The Boks might have lost experience with the departing golden oldies but they have gained some much needed energy with the new recruits.

Rugby is a team game and as a unit this new Springbok side will be tested, if they fail at their first test the public backlash will be massive. A close one but home advantage cannot be discounted and a narrow South Africans win could be on the cards.

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