Ireland hoping to exploit New Zealand’s Wellington weakness

All Blacks are favourites to win series decider but the the capital hasn’t always been a happy hunting ground of late

3rd Test: New Zealand v Ireland, Sky Stadium, Wellington., Saturday 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish – Live on Sky Sports. Live blog on Irish Times Sport

While there is a palpable resolve among the All Blacks to avenge a fourth defeat by Ireland for the fourth time in a row, and thereby seal their anticipated series win, there’s also been a discernible degree of concern in the Wellington air in the build-up to this 27,000-sell-out.

Part of that is due to the All Blacks’ record in the windy capital, especially compared to their Eden Park fortress. Beginning with their pivotal 24-21 defeat by the British & Irish Lions in the second Test, the All Blacks have won just one of their last five Tests in Sky Stadium, against France in June 2017.

They were also beaten 36-34 by South Africa in 2018. Admittedly, two of these five games were draws, against South Africa in 2019 and Australia in the first game of the Ian Foster reign in October 2020.


Not that Irish teams have great memories of Wellington, having lost here to the All Blacks in 1976 (by 11-3), 1992 (59-6) and 2008 (21-11), as well as the painful World Cup quarter-final loss against Wales by 22-10 in 2011.

The other source of concern for the All Blacks was the knee injury which limited Scott Barrett’s training this week and made him a doubt. If he is ruled out, Blues loose forward Akira Ioane would be promoted to start at blindside and Chiefs lock Tupou Vaa’i, who returned from Covid this week, is expected to be named on the bench.

NEW ZEALAND: Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes); Will Jordan (Crusaders), Reiko Ioane (Blues), David Havili (Crusaders), Sevu Reece (Crusaders, Tasman); Beauden Barrett (Blues), Aaron Smith (Highlanders); George Bower (Crusaders), Codie Taylor (Crusaders), Nepo Laulala (Blues); Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), Sam Whitelock (Crusaders); Scott Barrett (Crusaders), Sam Cane (Chiefs, capt), Ardie Savea (Hurricanes).

Replacements: Dane Coles (Hurricanes), Aidan Ross (Chiefs), Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Blues), Akira Ioane (Blues), Dalton Papalii (Blues), Folau Fakatava (Highlanders), Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Blues).

IRELAND: Hugo Keenan (Leinster); Mack Hansen (Connacht), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Bundee Aki (Connacht), James Lowe (Leinster); Johnny Sexton (Leinster, capt), Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster); Andrew Porter (Leinster), Dan Sheehan (Leinster), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster); James Ryan (Leinster), Tadhg Beirne (Munster); Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster), Caelan Doris (Leinster).

Replacements: Rob Herring (Ulster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Finlay Bealham (Connacht), Kieran Treadwell (Ulster), Jack Conan (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster), Joey Carbery (Munster), Keith Earls (Munster).

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).

Head-to-head: Played 35, New Zealand 30 wins, 1 draw, Ireland 4 wins.

Last five meetings: (2018) Ireland 16 New Zealand 9 (Dublin). (2019) New Zealand 46 Ireland 14 (RWC q/f, Tokyo). (2021) Ireland 29 New Zealand 20. (2022) New Zealand 42 Ireland 19. New Zealand 12 Ireland 23.

Forecast: New Zealand to win.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times