Bradley not worried by late arrivals

 

Ireland arrived in Wellington today buoyed by Munster and Leinster's recent successes but minus their captain Brian O'Driscoll, scrumhalf Eoin Reddan and fullback Geordan Murphy.

O'Driscoll is due to arrive within the next 48 hours after leaving the Ireland camp prior to their win against the Barbarians earlier in the week because of the death of a close friend.

Reddan, of Wasps, and Leicester's Murphy were involved in the Guinness Premiership final, won by the London club yesterday, and stand-in coach Michael Bradley is hoping to have them in training by Thursday at the latest.

Despite there being less than a week until the Test against New Zealand, Bradley felt the players' late arrival would not be too disruptive for the squad.

"Brian was with us up until the Barbarians match, so he's obviously very familiar with what's happening," Bradley said.

"Geordan and Eoin were with us for the Six Nations so systems are in place. They are smart rugby players and they'll do their homework for a match on Saturday. It's not really an issue for us."

Next weekend's match will not be played under the experimental law variations (ELVs) which have been in use during the southern hemisphere's Super 14 competition.

But Bradley was unsure how much of an advantage that would be for Ireland.

"We don't know. We have the advantage of not transferring to the ELVs, in terms of the coaching side of it and getting the players thinking in terms of the advantage and disadvantage of playing those rules," he said.

"On the other side, having looked at Super 14 matches, the amount of time the ball is in possession and the speed at which the game is played is now considerably faster than what it is played without them (the ELVs).

"So we are going to have a meeting of the two (different styles) and it will be the first game played under those conditions, so we will see how it goes."

Ireland will face a different looking All Blacks team at Westpac Stadium on Saturday after Graham Henry announced six new caps in his squad of 26 for the Tests against Ireland and England and the Tri-Nations competition.

Only 16 members of the squad that travelled to last year's World Cup in France have been retained with most of the remaining 14 players from that 30-man squad now playing their rugby in the northern hemisphere.

But Bradley felt the changing of the guard did not necessarily mean the All Blacks would be a weaker side.

"I've never ever seen a bad All Blacks side. New Zealand have a tremendous tradition in rugby and consistently produce excellent players," he said.

"We're probably at a little bit of a disadvantage on the basis that you will have (new) players playing for the jersey, for New Zealand, on Saturday and as always those players will lift those other players around them so it should be a fascinating game."

The man who will replace Bradley on a permanent basis at the end of the tour, outgoing Munster coach Declan Kidney, is meanwhile heading Down Under on a fact-finding mission to gain first-hand knowledge of the experimental laws that will be introduced into world rugby next season.

Kidney is travelling in an observational role and will not have any input into the squad during his travels.

Along with new Ireland team manager Paul McNaughton, Kidney will meet with coaches from Super 14 franchises in both countries, who have been playing under some of the ELVs this season.

McNaughton said: "Both Declan and I felt the tour was an opportunity to talk to coaches who had first-hand experience with regard to the ELVs ahead of our matches in November, which will be played under the new variations.

"It also, very importantly, allows us to watch the Ireland team play in both of their games from an external viewpoint, and to get a good look at the players in what will be two very testing games against quality teams."