All Blacks will look to lay waste to Ireland
“I’m sure there is going to be a lot of emotion, a lot of heat out here”
Kieran Read speaks to the media on Friday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Feels like the circus is in town. New Zealand’s greatest export is not sheep it’s their cherished All Blacks.
Mean and hungry, they come among us.
Shoulders bouncing into metal. Booooffffaaa. The mini-scrum machine makes media heads spin. All six foot eight of Sam Whitelock is parallel, within licking distance of the Aviva Stadium turf, pounding Karl Tu’inukuafe into the metallic contraption.
Tu’inukuafe is a rags to riches tale. The former bouncer being Tadhg Furlong’s clear and present problem.
A wounded Sonny Bill Williams strolls past. Adonis features, boxer knuckles, out of action due to his ageing body creaking in last weekend’s Twickenham war. Besides SBW, this walking brand name, these giants come fully locked and loaded.
“I’m sure there is going to be a lot of emotion, a lot of heat out here,” said Kieran Read, the soaring number eight and captain who seeks win number 101 tonight.
Until now, the circus has been littered with cheap shots delivered via disarming Kiwi humour.
The talking is almost over.
This week started in Blanchardstown, rolled down to the N4 to Carton House before doubling back to Castleknock where Ian Foster, the New Zealand head-coach-in-waiting (unless Joe Schmidt knows differently), took verbal swipes at Bundee Aki and Johnny Sexton.
Steve Hansen has been up to his old tricks as soon as they squeezed past England by daring Conor Murray to come out and play.
Schmidt responded with silence and an email stating Murray and Robbie Henshaw are out. By yesterday afternoon Dan Leavy had followed them and Seán O’Brien into the west lower infirmary.
The bandwagon rolls on, towards the Aviva stadium, via Croke Park to fulfil an AIG function - sponsors of both the All Blacks and Dublin GAA - it being that sort of week. Strike while the iron is hot.
Even Tana Umaga and Brian O’Driscoll took the Guinness pay-out to assure everyone, via a marketing campaign, that they have buried the 2005 spear tackle incident nobody cares about any more. Honest, Brian’s no longer a “sook,” Tana all but said.
“To beat the best team in the world you’ve got to be up there with one of our best performances,” said Best. “Look at England. At 15-0, they looked like they had the game in their control a couple of minutes before half-time but 15-10 completely changed the dynamic of the game at half-time.”
Suddenly Beauden Barrett has the drop goal bug.
“Look at the last time we had them here,” Best remembered. “An individual score by Beauden Barrett and then a brilliant team try, thrown about by some class individuals. You know how devastating they can be. We’ve got to be on the money.”
Down the tunnel out on the field, Kiwis walk through their haka in an empty ground that harks back to 1989 when Willie Anderson spat fire at Buck Shelford.
“More of the same,” said Best. “An incredible atmosphere would be great. You think the crowd can’t be better and we get to a massive game and they are.
“That’s what we need. Against New Zealand there are going to be times when we will be under the pump. That little half of a per cent from the crowd could be the difference in repelling them or getting across the line or making that tackle or getting back or whatever it is.
“We need to give the crowd something to feed on too.”
The dress rehearsal continues. Sonny Bill has little do be doing.
Spotting a few Irish teenagers, watching wide eyed, he sits beside the lads and chews the fat. Classy.
Read is still humming into microphones.
“It’s going to be an awesome test match.”
It’s important to be physical?
“Physicality and intensity wins test matches.”
What’s left in the All Black tank on this penultimate week, broken by Barrett brothers supping quiet pints in Kehoe’s of South Anne’s Street, after a long hard season?
“Aw, we are going to need the best performance of our season the way the Irish are playing,” said Read. “We are going to go out there and give it our all.”
Physicality wins Test matches. The hits will come accidentally, inevitably high.
“It will be spiky,” Joe Schmidt warned.
History rarely lies.