Jamison Gibson-Park and James Lowe are set to play against their native New Zealand for the first time.
Familiar faces

'A lot of the boys will be looking forward to reacquainting themselves'

Greg Feek and John Plumtree will be looking to get the better of Ireland’s pack.

THE ALL BLACKS have a very knowledgeable tour guide in Dublin this week.

Their scrum coach, Greg Feek, spent 10 years in the capital city working with Leinster and then Ireland before departing home to New Zealand last year to join Ian Foster’s staff.

He has organised a few social events for the Kiwis ahead of their clash with Ireland on Saturday at the Aviva Stadium but his understanding of the Irish scrum will be just as important. Feek has intimate knowledge of how the likes of Tadhg Furlong operate.

He will be preparing the All Blacks’ scrum to go after new Ireland loosehead Andrew Porter too, having previously helped Porter prepare for games at tighthead.

Meanwhile, former Ireland forwards coach John Plumtree is now in that role with the All Blacks, pitting him against one of his former players – Ireland forwards coach Paul O’Connell.

Feek has been telling the All Blacks to be ready for a lineout onslaught.

“I asked him who the Ireland forwards coach is and he said Paul O’Connell, the legendary Irish lock,” explained All Blacks hooker Dane Coles yesterday evening after they had landed into Dublin.

“He said he is a whizz on lineouts. I used to love watching Paul play. But definitely during the week, we’ll be picking Feeky’s brains because he spent such a long time in that environment.

greg-feek Photosport / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO Dane Coles and Greg Feek at All Blacks training. Photosport / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

“It will be a special week for Feeky coming back here as an All Blacks scrum coach and looking to catch up with a  few guys. But we will be picking his brains for sure.” 

Of course, there are familiar faces in the Ireland team from a Kiwi point of view too.

Bundee Aki – who has already faced and beaten the All Blacks – and James Lowe played with the Chiefs before moving to Ireland to become internationals, while Jamison Gibson-Park was previously with the Blues and then had a year at the Hurricanes, where he was understudy to TJ Perenara – his likely opposite number on Saturday.

“Jamo! A great man,” said Coles, also played with Gibson-Park at the Canes. “It’s awesome to see that he came over here with that goal of playing for Ireland. He’s a great man, a great family man, and he’s been carving up.

“We watched the Japan highlights and you boys gave them a bit of a drumming and he had a huge part to play. It’s cool to see Jamo go against the All Blacks. It will be a special game for him. We teamed up quite nicely at the Canes and it will be nice to see him.”

Aki left the Chiefs back in 2012 but did play with Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane there, while Lowe only departed in 2017 so also played with the likes of Anton Lienert-Brown.

The Leinster wing made a big impact against Japan last weekend, so the All Blacks will be keen to keep him quiet this weekend.

“He’s powerful,” said All Blacks defence coach Scott McLeod. “Watching [the Japan game], he seemed to be in Johnny Sexton’s sleeve the whole time. He was sitting around there in the back waiting with him and he went through a few holes off him.

“That wasn’t often the wing, he came into the midfield and poked his nose around a bit. They use his left foot really well, he’s got a long kicking game. A lot of the boys know him so I’m sure they’ll be looking forward to reacquainting themselves on the field.” 

james-lowe-beats-the-tackle-by-jannes-kirsten Photosport / Bruce Lim/INPHO James Lowe during his time with the Chiefs. Photosport / Bruce Lim/INPHO / Bruce Lim/INPHO

Defence coach McLeod pinpointed the experienced Sexton as the key man for Ireland as he highlighted what the All Blacks have seen as development in the Irish attack under Andy Farrell since he took over from Joe Schmidt.

“They look as though they’re wanting to play a little bit more than under Joe,” said McLeod.

“We noticed against Japan that there was a lot of offloading and that willingness to play from their own half, which probably they haven’t done as much in the past, so that’s probably the biggest thing that sticks out to us.”

That said, the Kiwis do expect a big aerial contest from Ireland too.

“They also have that up their sleeve,” said McLeod. “That’s how they apply pressure and they did that a little bit against Japan, putting the ball in the air and trying to feed off those scraps and play quickly. 

“We will have to contend with that. Conor Murray is one of the best aerial kickers in the game and Jamison Gibson-Park is not far behind, so they’ve got two threats there and Sexton just puts the ball exactly where he wants it to go, so he’s a master of that as well. It’s something we will definitely be preparing well for this week.”

While there will be much talk about both sides’ attack this week, Coles is in no doubt about how this game will be decided.

It has been a brutally physical fixture in Dublin the last few times and he’s expecting the same this weekend.

“It’s what rugby is,” said Coles. “You do all the homework and then you go hard for 80 minutes.

“These last five encounters have been really intense, a lot of pride and emotion at stake in really physical tests. I’m not a genius but it will probably be the same this Saturday.”

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