Ireland's Simon Zebo, who wins his first cap for Ireland on Saturday, pictured today in downtown Auckland. INPHO/Billy Stickland
Down Under

Sweeping changes in Irish team to face All Blacks

Declan Kidney has thrown convention to the wind as he shakes up the Ireland backline and hands out two new caps.

NEVER AGAIN CAN Declan Kidney be accused of always being conservative.

The Ireland coach has named his team to face the All Blacks in Saturday’s first Test at Eden Park and it contains more than a few surprises.

Starting with the backline, Simon Zebo and Fergus McFadden will line-up on the left and right wings respectively.

Keith Earls will feature at inside centre beside captain Brian O’Driscoll and Rob Kearney starts at full-back.

Gordon D’Arcy, described as “unfortunate” by Kidney, and “unlucky” Andrew Trimble have been dropped from the matchday 22 completely.

Half-backs and the pack

Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton resume their half-back partnership and Peter O’Mahony takes the place of the injured Stephen Ferris in the back row.

He is joined by Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip.

There is a new lock combination as Dan Tuohy comes in for his first cap to partner a man that had a solid Six Nations, Donnacha Ryan.

Dan Tuohy makes his first start at lock for Ireland. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

Mike Ross’ hamstring injury rules him out so tighthead Declan Fitzpatrick comes in for his debut alongside Ulster colleague Rory Best and Cian Healy.

Not quite now or never

Captain O’Driscoll was in feisty form at the team announcement on Thursday.

Informed by a local journalist that Ireland would be under no pressure to beat the world champions at home, O’Driscoll was diplomatic but focused on success. He replied:

At some stage in the future, whether it is this year, next year or in 20 years time, some time an Irish team is going to beat the All Blacks before the world implodes.

Zebo glowed as he sat beside Kidney and spoke about the challenge of facing up against a New Zealand back three of Julien Savea, Zac Guildford and Israel Dagg.

“It has been a hugely exciting few days,” said Zebo. “To be playing the world champions in their back yard and to be making my debut as well, it is something that I have dreamed about for a long time.”

The formidable foe

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has also named his starting 15 and paired uncapped scrum-half Aaron Smith with out-half Dan Carter.

There are new caps for lock Brodie Retalick and winger Julien Savea and Victor Vito has come in to replace the injured flanker Jerome Kaino.

Richie McCaw captains a team that features Sonny Bill Williams and Conrad Smith at centre.

The first Test kicks off at 8:35am (Irish Time) on Saturday, 9 June.

* 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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