After both under-performed massively last week, the top two teams in international rugby will go head to head this weekend
New Zealand will be coming to the Aviva tomorrow evening after having a very tough time against a passionate and confrontational England side.
Eddie Jones' men put themselves in the lead and played the rest of the game with their wingers promoted in defence in shocking weather conditions, which forced the All Blacks to attempt to execute a kicking game.
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As a defence, if you force the opposition to gamble on some grubber kicks to break you down you’re doing pretty well. The Kiwis were as composed as ever and clawed the game back score by score. There’s no better team in the game to stick to the system and score at vital times.
That Damian McKenzie score before half time was essential to their comeback. We even saw a drop goal from Beauden Barrett, which doesn’t happen too often.
New Zealand almost believe that drop goals are a result of failure in attack but that shows how seriously they took the game, and that they’ve learned from their mistakes in the Rugby Championship during the summer.
Their form does look ominous from an Irish perspective. Yes, they might be vulnerable but that’s when they strike the hardest. This was already a big game for Steve Hansen and his team because Ireland have bought into a belief that they can beat the All Blacks.
It’s going to be even more important for them now after a poor initial showing against England.
Ireland didn’t have their greatest day either last weekend. In fact it was probably their sloppiest in a while. We saw them drop a few restart receipts in the first half when Argentina put the ball in that awkward area between Iain Henderson, lifters and Keith Earls.
The rest of us made these mistakes at club level but Larmour's learning from these mistakes at the highest level
The lineout was pretty poor by Irish standards, there were at least three penalties in the tackle, one on Bundee Aki, Pete O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien.
The midfield defence stuttered as well with Johnny Sexton and Aki being broken by a hard-running line from Jeronimo de la Fuente and Will Addison was caught grasping some air a short while after, albeit with a bit more trickery in attack.
Jordan Larmour struggled to prove the media right with his performance in the air. Leaving the ball bounce from a Garryowen landing on your goal line isn’t international standard full-back play.
He also found that transition from kick chase to back field difficult, leaving Jack McGrath stranded with an inside ball from Nicolas Sanchez for a line break in the second half.
I’m a massive fan of Larmour but he found it tough at the weekend. He conceded a penalty for holding on and was lucky to get away with another.
He uses his feet so much that he evades a lot of tacklers, his own support too, but twice at the weekend he ended up being tackled and landing on his back.
This is a very vulnerable position for the ball carrier because the ball is exposed and any back row worth their salt will pick that off.
Two things that Axel Foley used to drill into us spring to mind. He always said "you’re never as good as they say you are and you’re never as bad as they say you are".
I don’t think Larmour was getting carried away with himself but the media certainly were and that’s probably why I was watching him so closely. He’s full of potential and a special player but there is still some naivety in his play.
The rest of us made these mistakes at club level but he’s learning from these mistakes at the highest level.
The other thing Axel used to say was not to land on your back in contact.
The ball carrier needs to be very aware of his own body position to keep opposition poachers away from your ball. Players need to work on using their footwork to win the contact area to go forward which will make the poach a lot harder.
Working on the ground or a crocodile roll like we saw from Will Addison last weekend will buy more time for your supporting players to clear the danger. Last weekend was my first real viewing of Addison after hearing Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble harp on about him on their podcast but they’re not wrong, he seems like the real deal.
His footwork and handling are top class and he seems to have a bit of presence about him too. Placing the ball away from the direction that the ball came from will increase the distance from any hunting player on the inside, which is where most turnovers come from.
If Irish players leave the ball exposed to someone of Ardie Savea’s quality this weekend they could be seeing less of the ball than they’re used to.
The Irish back row is a heavily contested area. Dan Leavy is back in the mix after a stand out performance. It’s frightening how someone of Josh van der Flier's quality can be left out of a team.
Leavy and Van Der Flier compete directly with each other because they’re both such good traditional openside flankers but we never really discuss the other two positions. O’ Mahony and CJ Stander are nailed on to start every time there’s a selection meeting, which bucks the trend of Leinster’s dominance both in rugby competitions but also in Irish selection.
CJ’s fitness and workrate is outstanding, he’s carried more ball than any other Tier One Test player this season. I’ve never seen Pete start a season at the intensity that he’s playing at.
From his first Guinness Pro14 game this season he’s been covering a lot more ground, causing havoc in the lineout and breakdown and is doing that damage for close to 80 minutes now.
Munster S&C coach Adam Sheahan kept a close eye on him in the off season and you can see the dividends that it’s paying already.
Nevertheless, I can’t see Ireland coming out on the right side of the scoreline this weekend. Patriotism aside, I think New Zealand will be looking to right some wrongs from last weekend and will win by more than a score.
Ireland will have a few tricks up their sleeve and will challenge the All Blacks but I don’t think it will be enough to win.
Rory Best needs to have a better showing and may be helped with the inclusion of Devin Toner but Brodie Retallick will be aware of the captain's insecurities at the set piece.
Rob Kearney will be back to his Peter Schmeichel role controlling things from the back and gathering contestables but even Sexton needs to improve upon last week.
Hopefully I’ll be proven wrong but we need to see top performances in Ireland’s key positions if they’re going to cause an upset against a team who have only lost four times since the last World Cup.
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)