These are game of tight margins.

Take out the Hamilton clash of 2012 and the total score from the last four Tests between New Zealand and Ireland is 96 to 90.

That's tight.

The 2013 game in the Aviva was on a tightrope. The visitors, protecting an unbeaten season, took advantage of a late Irish mistake to work a seven-pointer, the winning score with the clock in the red.

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Ireland's only success, out of 30 attempts, came three years later. 40-29. The scoreline was about right on the balance of play.

The stats show both sides scored 96% in the 'rucks won' column. Ireland won eight out of eight scrums, New Zealand three from three. Ireland edged the lineout: 83% to 80%.

Possession: Ireland 51. Territory: New Zealand 51.

Nothing in it there either.

The penalty conceded game was won hands down by Ireland: 4 versus 12.

Peter O'Mahony missed that game, Joe Schmidt reckoned he wasn't match-fit. O'Mahony reckoned he could have done a job. Tight call.

"[Being left out for Chicago] took a couple of hours to process," said the flanker in 2016.

Missing in action for the Chicago game were locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock. The second row was an area Ireland targetted. It worked.

The revenge mission two weeks later, a 21-9 dogfight at the Aviva, was tight too. Could have gone the other way.

"A helluva tough match, a real Test," said captain Kieran Read, whose side had a 100% scrum and lineout record on the day. Ireland won all seven of their own scrums but could only brag about 90% of lineouts.

There have been numerous distractions ahead Saturday's game, the showpiece of the November games – Ireland playing Italy in America; losing Sean O'Brien in the Argentina primer; Steve Hansen selecting the injured Conor Murray; Larmour apparently usurping Kearney, and so on.

But, according to O'Mahony – in harmony with Hansen – this game comes down to the tight. The tight five, to be precise.

In fact, they all do.

"I think tight fives set the tone for every international game," said the 29-year-old.

"They are an integral part of the set-piece, which goes a long way to the winning and losing of a Test match.

"Our front five set the tone for us every week and it will be no different this week."

The make-up of that front five is as yet unknown but a recall is on the cards for Devin Toner, who started on the bench against the Pumas.

Ireland lost three of 13 line-outs on Saturday.

"When Devin Toner is on the field our lineout always fires well," Eddie O'Sullivan said.

"It's a problem, without him on the field. We knew pretty early in the game this was a problem. That feeds into next week."

O'Mahony concurs: "[Devin's] a very important part of our squad. Himself, Hendy, Jamsie, they work incredibly hard in the lineout.

"They are three incredible lineout operators. You've seen what they are capable of over the last couple of years.

"Obviously, this week, with the way the lineout went last week, it's certainly an area of repair for us.

"Our percentages weren't where we wanted them to be and that's the scenarios we're certainly gong to have to look after."

That's part 1. Part 2 is going after the New Zealand lineout, which scored 92% in miserable conditions in the win over England at Twickenham.

"We always focus hard on in the opposition," said O'Mahony, in line for cap number 52.

"You see the stats they have, the tries New Zealand score off their lineout.

"It's by far the highest area that they've scored tries from so it's an area we'll focus on.

"It's a difficult area because their lineout is very tidy.

"The options they have in Whitelock, Read, Retallick, Squire, Ardie Savea, they are all very capable lineout operators.

"The Argentina defence was very strong, very impressive and they had a couple of very good streals from out lineout but it's an area you battle with every week 'cos defences are getting so good, it's won't be any different this week."

Brian O'Driscoll never got over the line against New Zealand, one stand-out regret in a medal-laden career.

O'Mahony, who captained the Lions in the first losing Test last summer but didn't feature in the win or draw, is in the same boat, as it stands.

"It's for anyone who is picked to play as well as they can for Ireland"

Despite that he claims that he can't afford to take it personally.

"It's not for me to have an agenda or anyone to have an agenda," he replies to a question about missing out, against his will, in Chicago.

"It's for anyone who is picked to play as well as they can for Ireland.

"If you are too emotional you'll miss a beat and if you miss a beat against these guys it's seven points.

"If you are on for nine and half minutes out of 10 minutes and you miss 30 seconds you can be fairly sure you are going to be under the sticks."

It's going to be tight.

Follow Ireland v New Zealand via our liveblog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the News Now app, watch live on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player or listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 this Saturday (kick-off 7pm)