Nothing to fear from the start of some new beginnings

 

NEW ZEALAND TOUR FIRST TEST:“WHY SHOULD we fear the Irish?” asked the New Zealand Herald yesterday on the top right of page one under a picture of Brian O’Driscoll.

On the front page of their Friday sports supplement, to a green backdrop, the paper pointed out that Ireland had never beaten the All Blacks over 24 meetings and 107 years, with an aggregate points haul of 664-259, and cited the 66-28 drubbing Ireland suffered on their last visit to New Zealand in repeating: “So why should we fear the Irish?”

They had a case, and the Irish players perhaps had additional motivation – not that they needed it for what looking an interesting match-up. Both sides have made what are likely to be fairly landmark selections at the start of a new World Cup cycle. New Zealand’s is the more radical, with only seven of their World Cup winning starting XV remaining amid three new caps.

Nonetheless, Ireland have two new caps, albeit one enforced, in a side showing six changes in personnel and a positional one from the Six Nations finale.

It also remained to be seen whether Brian O’Driscoll and Keith Earls would mix and match in midfield and ditto Peter O’Mahony and Seán O’Brien in the backrow, but while O’Driscoll may be wearing his customary number 13 the likelihood is that the great one will be playing mostly inside centre to accommodate Earls’ retention of the outside centre slot which he filled fairly impressively in the great man’s absence during the Six Nations.

IRELAND: R Kearney (Leinster); F McFadden (Leinster), B O’Driscoll (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Simon Zebo (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), D Fitzpatrick (Ulster), D Tuohy (Ulster), D Ryan (Munster), P O’Mahony (Munster), S O’Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster). Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), R Loughney (Connacht), K McLaughlin (Leinster), R O’Gara (Munster), D Cave (Ulster).

NEW ZEALAND: I Dagg (Canterbury Crusaders); Z Guildford (Canterbury Crusaders), C Smith (Wellington Hurricanes), S B Williams (Waikato Chiefs), J Savea (Wellington Hurricanes); D Carter (Canterbury Crusaders), A Smith (Otago Highlanders); T Woodcock (Auckland Blues), A Hore (Otago Highlanders), O Franks (Canterbury Crusaders), B Retallick (Waikato Chiefs), S Whitelock (Canterbury Crusaders), V Vito (Wellington Hurricanes), R McCaw (Canterbury Crusaders, capt), K Read (Canterbury Crusaders). Replacements: H Elliot (Waikato Chiefs), B Franks (Canterbury Crusaders), A Williams (Auckland Blues), A Thomson (Otago Highlanders), P Weepu (Auckland Blues), A Cruden (Waikato Chiefs), B Smith (Otago Highlanders).

Referee: Nigel Owens(Wales).

Overall head-to-head: Played 24, New Zealand 23 wins, 1 draw, Ireland 0 wins.

Last six meetings: (2006) New Zealand 34 Ireland 23; New Zealand 27 Ireland 17; (2008) New Zealand 21 Ireland 11; Ireland 3 New Zealand 22; (2010) New Zealand 66 Ireland 28; Ireland 18 New Zealand 38.

Betting(Paddy Powers): 1/14 New Zealand, 40/1 Draw, 13/2 Ireland.

Handicap odds(Ireland +17pts) 10/11 New Zealand, 25/1 Draw, 10/11 Ireland.

Forecast: Ireland to beat the handicap, if not the All Blacks