Summer Tour Diary: Restart for Christchurch as Ireland talk up second chances

A tour of the earthquake-hit city puts things into perspective for Kevin McLaughlin and his teammates ahead of All Blacks battle.

Brian O'Driscoll rallies the troops at Friday's Captain's Run.
Brian O'Driscoll rallies the troops at Friday's Captain's Run.
Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

YOU WOULD THINK that it never rains in New Zealand.

So far this week, Declan Kidney, Brian O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan, Les Kiss and Gordon D’Arcy have all been asked if rain showers, forecast for Saturday, will give Ireland the upper hand in the second Test.

Kiwis must arm the every one of their 40.1 million sheep with watering cans to make the countryside so lush.

The setting for Ireland’s next outing, Rugby League Park, is very reminiscent of the RDS.

Small stands on either end place the pitch and players at the mercy of the elements.

Exposed, raw and teetering – Christchurch seems an apt setting for a side yearning to up their game and avoid returning home in a collective sling.

Deccie gets the blues

Coach Kidney has made four changes to his starting XV and two arrive with freshly minted Heineken Cup medals in their collection.

Mike Ross should provide Tony Woodcock with a stern test and Kevin McLaughlin has been drafted in to take some pressure off ball-carrying supremo Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien, one of the Irish players to genuinely worry the locals.

McLaughlin said, “I’m delighted to get my opportunity. I felt that I was doing really well with Leinster.

“Obviously, coming from the disappointment of not getting picked in the initial squad to find myself starting in the second Test is fantastic. It is dreamland stuff.”

The Red Zone

The day before dreamland and his Thursday call-up, McLaughlin was in a land that was rocked by disaster last year and has crawled back ever since.

Christchurch was rocked by a devastating earthquake in February 2011, which led to the loss of 185 lives.

McLaughlin and his teammates toured the Red Zone (epicentre of the wreckage) in the city and was surprised by the rate of the recovery.

Cian Healy in the Christchurch ‘Red Zone’. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

McLaughlin said, “We went into the Red Zone and for some reason I would have thought that they would have been further along with the reconstruction.

I didn’t realise the technical difficulties – the city is built, pretty much, on a swamp and they can’t just blow up the buildings, they have to take them apart bit by bit. It was just scary, how much more work they have to do.

“However, it was great to see some Irish there with the reconstruction and they seem to have a real community spirit and everyone is buying into it.

“Even with the aftershocks, everyone is focused on rebuilding the city and making it a nice, vibrant place again.”

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One of the new additions to a city in the midst of a painfully slow transit is Re-Start – a mall with shops placed in shipping containers. Ingenious and impressive.

Captain’s Run

Gordon D’Arcy, reunited with Brian O’Driscoll in midfield for the 48th time, was in good form at the Irish Captain’s Run on Friday.

He remarked that his missus (fiancée Aoife Coogan) ‘who doesn’t really follow rugby’ knows who Sonny Bill Williams is.

The centre was not one of the Irish players who rose early to watch Ireland lose 4-0 against Spain but he did admit that it was unfortunate that ‘another Wexord man’, Kevin Doyle, did not feature to make an impact on the game. He said:

Waking up to that result, you just feel so sorry for the lads. They’ve worked so hard to get there and they’ve really grown as a team. It is something they have taken a lot of heart from.

“They haven’t done themselves justice and hopefully they will get something out of the last game.”

We’d play them on a field

D’Arcy also spoke about the significance of playing the first Test against the All Blacks in Christchurch since the 2011 earthquakes.

He said, “With everything that has gone on here in the last two years, I think it is only right that we are playing here.

Regardless if there was no stadium and we were just plying on a pitch and everyone was watching around us and standing.

It’s a good stadium, it looks very intimate and close. Looks like we are going to hear the crowd and might get to hear exactly what they’re saying.”

*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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