Cian Healy v Charlie Faumuina
IF THERE WAS any danger of New Zealand being a little too focused on their sponsorship commitments than the W this weekend then Cian Healy’s honest admission of the mindset he’ll hold in the moments before kick-off will surely have poked the bear a little bit.
While coach of Auckland Blues, Pat Lam referred to Faumuina as a ‘ballerina’ because of the agility of the big man. But athleticism is not usually a requisite for strong scrummagers and the 26-year-old had been criticised for his work at the set-piece until the new laws came in.
Cian Healy has also enjoyed the changed of rhythm at the scrum and will more in tune with Nigel Owens’ interpretation. However, Healy will need to really hammer home any opening that comes his way to give his side a platform.
Jamie Heaslip v Kieran Read
To misquote Walter White: Read is the danger.
Every number eight in the world must look at Read picking out the parts of their game they can attempt to model on the Crusader.
Equally, any eight that faces the world’s current best player must be itching to make their mark.
Jamie Heaslip man may well suggest a ‘just another game’ before this Test, but with Read in front of him he will be the first man called upon to shut down and wrap up the man who is responsible for so much All Black magic this season.
Australia were able to avoid getting sucked into our now infamous choke tackle last week. If the Leinster stalwart can make a slow turnover on some early Read carries, then Ireland might just start to feel the Lansdowne love again.
Rob Kearney v Israel Dagg
For two weeks in a row, Ireland’s kicking from hand has been plentiful and sloppy. Last week the ability of Israel Folau to turn almost every high ball into an attacking base ensured a long Lansdowne night.
While the other Israel – ‘the other’ being Dagg, the best fullback in the world – doesn’t specialise quite so much in the air, if given space to run he will thinks and act like a second out-half; attacking the line, drawing defenders and slipping sublime passes away.
Kearney will probably not be called on to field a great deal of ball, but his choice of when to return and when to test the line or change the point of attack must be on the money this week.