Thursday 26 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
©INPHO/Billy Stickland Days at the office won't come much tougher for Messrs Fitzpatrick, Best and Healy.
# First Test
Preview: Avoid front row woes and we will run the All Blacks very close
Hopes are high that Ireland can end a 107 year wait to beat the All Blacks but McCaw, Carter and Woodcock are not ones for rolling over.

TWO THINGS HAVE come up more often than not during the first week of Ireland’s tour to New Zealand – the World Cup win over Australia and the All Blacks long unbeaten run against the boys in green.

On Thursday, Brian O’Driscoll handled the question of the AB’s 24-game undefeated streak against very well, saying Ireland would win a match against the Kiwis at some stage, ‘before the world implodes’.

Rory Best handled queries on the 107 year wait on Friday and declared that ‘we would not turn up tomorrow if we were not confident of winning’.

Tomorrow at Eden Park, Ireland will look to beat the World Cup winners in their first game since the tournament.

They were the first side to beat England, reigning world champions, in 2004 and they fancy their chances of handing out a similar dose to the All Blacks.

Famous night at Eden Park

Best revealed to that Ireland will be in a different changing room from the one they celebrated in after defeating the Wallabies 15-6 in the World Cup. He added:

We have fond memories of (that game) nine months ago. We are well aware that it was a different tournament, a long time ago, and a different team.

Best’s Ulster teammate, scrum-half, Paul Marshall, watched Ireland’s World Cup heroics at home but got a sense of the monumental effort Ireland put in to beat the fancied Australians.

“When you’re watching it live and where you watch it on TV,” he said, “they are very different experiences.” Marshall added:

You don’t really get the intensity of a game quite often when you watch it on TV but that was one thing that did come through in that Australia game – that the Irish team played with a serious intensity.

“They were first to the ball when it was loose, they defended like champions, made their tackles and made every one count.”

Marshall added, “At this level of rugby, the higher you go the less chances you have and you have to be clinical when they come. On that day, Ireland were very clinical.”

A similar clinical edge will be needed if Ireland are to emerge as victors.

Best reasoned that Ireland need to take 90% of their chances but Declan Kidney believes his side need to operate at 100% to win.

Brian O’Driscoll addresses his teammates during the Captain’s Run at Eden Park. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

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The battle up front

Kidney named a starting 15 that has excited Irish supporters at home and abroad.

The biggest omission, the injured Mike Ross, was not of the coaches choosing but it could see the Irish pack buckle in similar fashion to the rout suffered at the hands of England in March.

Cian Healy and new cap Declan Fitzpatrick have a monumental tussle on their hands against Crusaders props Tony Woodcock and Owen Franks.

Best,who rounds out the Irish front row, said, “They are obviously a quality unit.” He continued:

Even with Andrew Hore coming into the World Cup-winning side it doesn’t weaken them at all. They’ve a lot of experience.

“It is going to be a great challenge but that is what you want to do. You want to pit yourself against the best in their own back yard.”

Optimism comes in the form of Fitzpatrick’s solid showing in the Heineken Cup semi-final and Healy winning the man-of-the-match award on his last outing in Auckland.

As Brian said …

The back threes from both sides should set Eden Park alight with their speed, tenacity, skill and high flying antics.

Simon Zebo against Zac Guildford and Rob Kearney battling Israel Dagg – it is enough to make you set two alarms so not a minute of the early kick-off (8:35am Irish time) is missed.

Sean O’Brien was back to his best in Leinster’s Heineken Cup Final win and Peter O’Mahony will get a chance to test himself against Richie McCaw and the bruising duo of Keiran Read and Victor Vito.

Then there is the matter of Keith Earls and Brian O’Driscoll to take on the wily Conrad Smith and the “extraordinary” Sonny Bill Williams.

As O’Driscoll said on Thursday, “I live in the moment and our time is now.”

On second thoughts, you better set three alarms.

You can follow all the latest news, comments and goings on from the Irish camp by following @patmccarry on Twitter and by regularly checking in with

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