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Dublin: 5°C Tuesday 26 January 2021

Ireland prepared for extra dimension Retallick gives All Black attack

“We’ll have to do a bit more homework.”

TEAM SPORTS AND the people who play them will always be able to wax lyrically about the insignificance of the individual and how the collective effort is all that matters.

Yet even the best team in the world has a right to stutter and struggle if they lose a player who has been at the heart of what has made them the gold standard.

Brodie Retallick is the best second row in the world. His absence in New Zealand’s streak-ending loss to Ireland a week and a half ago was always going to open up a point of weakness in the All Black set-piece.

But the world champions also missed Retallick’s influence in the open field as he operates as an attacking hub with slick hands to pick reverse passes to an array of powerful options running angles off him.

New Zealand are anything but a one-man team, but Retallick is an especially difficult cog to replace.

“I’d imagine it’s going to be tougher,” nods Jared Payne in that understated Bay of Plenty accent. It’s not often that centres are asked to size up the danger of a second row, or do so without deferring to their team-mates in the tight five. However, it’s the Ulster back who will have to deal with the danger brought by the playmaking lock.

“He is very good in that midfield area, hitting those front-runners with the shield out the back.

“It’s going to be tough, but we’ll be given a plan and if we can implement that well then hopefully we can shut a few of those things down.”

Brodie Retallick Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Retallick played as a replacement in the weekend win over Italy and is set to return to the number four shirt in Dublin. He is likely to be reunited with Sam Whitelock after an ankle injury delayed the Crusader’s trip on the northern hemisphere tour.

Having successfully shoed one of the best flankers of the professional era in Jerome Kaino out of his territory last time out, Devin Toner wants to face the best New Zealand have to offer so that he can test himself. As a pack and a defensive unit, Ireland are certainly not going in to this rematch on home turf unprepared.

“He’s great at those link passes,” says Toner, “any good defence needs to get in their face, so I think what we need to do is get off the lines as quick as we can to make sure he doesn’t have time on the ball to be able to do them link passes.

“That’s what we’ll work on but I think our D has been going pretty well, so hopefully we’ll be alright.

He’s a very powerful player and he adds a lot to the scrum, the maul and in the air so there’s a reason why he’s known as one of the best locks in the world. If he is playing we’ll have to do a bit more homework but hopefully he is so we can test ourselves.”

It would be foolish to focus solely on Retallick of course, that’s the point of him attacking in that midfield role, he draws attention and tacklers before slipping the ball away in another direction. Ireland will hope to impose a variation on the defensive effort that was so effective in forcing errors in Soldier Field to once again frustrate the world champions.

“If we stop all that link play, that’s the essence of the D — and also if we can stop their offloads and if we can stop all those sort of plus passes, that’s what they sort of thrive on.

“I think we did well in the last game to limit the amount of offloads they got. I think they got nine in the game which is a lot lower than they’d like. They sort of thrive on that kind of stuff so if we can get in their face and negate all that sort of stuff we should be okay.”

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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