Iain Henderson returns to Ireland secondrow for New Zealand clash

Andy Farrell: ‘We’re coming up against a different beast . . . It’s a challenge we get excited about’

Both the restricted game time and preparation time in the build-up to the autumn internationals, as well as the quality of the performance against Japan, were factors in Andy Farrell and his assistants predictably keeping changes to a minimum for this Saturday’s meeting with the world’s number one ranked side, New Zealand, at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 3.15pm).

Save for Iain Henderson being promoted to the starting team in the secondrow and Tadhg Beirne moving to the bench, where Rob Herring's outstanding throwing has been restored at the expense of last week's debutant Dan Sheehan, there are no other changes to the matchday squad.

“We all know the start of our season and how that’s been,” said Farrell. “We all know the limited time that we’ve had together so the cohesiveness of our group is absolutely everything at the weekend. We were pretty cohesive last week against Japan so we roll on with a pretty similar side.”

Despite the comprehensive nature of last weekend’s 60-5 win in Ireland’s seasonal opener, Farrell is under no illusions that Ireland will need to improve “in all areas, as ever”, adding: “We’re coming up against a different beast, we know that. It’s a challenge we get excited about. We find out a lot about ourselves this weekend and we embrace that.”


The All Blacks selection has merely reaffirmed that, with Ian Foster naming all but one of the side which beat Wales 54-16 a fortnight ago in Cardiff while making 14 changes from last week’s scrappy win over Italy.

The net effect means nine of the All Blacks starting XV from their 46-14 World Cup quarter-final two years ago, including the entire tight five, are back in harness as against half a dozen of the Irish XV from that night.

“It’s full-bore, isn’t it?” said Farrell. “It’s very experienced, a similar side that we came up against in the World Cup, certainly in the front five. They’ve got threats all over the field and these are the types of games we want to play in. We’re coming up against the best and we’re coming up against a very strong starting 15 and strong squad in New Zealand.”

Asked whether Ireland will seek to play with the same style as last week when making 18 offloads and 11 clean breaks, and scoring nine tries, Farrell said: “Like I keep on saying, it’s making sure that we’re in a position to suit the opportunities that’s in front of us. What we do know is that against the best team in the world, it will be limited chances so we’ve got to see those chances and be in a position to be able to execute those decisions in front of us.

“The one thing that has to happen against the best team in the world is that when you get your chances, you have to take them. There certainly won’t be as many chances as last week, but we endeavour to play our game and they endeavour to play their game as well.

“We’ve got to make sure that we play the game that’s in front of us and that’s all about decision-making.”

Whereas one two-time Lion, Henderson, has been restored to the secondrow, a three-time Lion, Conor Murray, has to be content with an impact role for the last quarter or so due to the retention of Jamison Gibson-Park.

“We thought Jamison played really well and deserves another shot at it,” said Farrell. “As I said last week, he is more comfortable in his skin now and his leadership has gone through the roof at this type of level. I thought he had a great game last week so he just gets the chance again.”

Although they will not be in attendance at the Irish women’s game against the USA at the RDS on Friday night, Farrell said: “I certainly have a message of support: all the best from all the guys here. We will be watching. As you know. Protocols don’t allow us to get outside that much and mix but we wish them all the best against the USA.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, the first of four meetings this season and long since sold out, Farrell said: “It is a privilege to test yourself against the best.

“We’ll learn a lot about ourselves through the week and then we will review the game like we always do. Next week against Argentina will be another big challenge along the way.

“It is what it is for our guys. What a time to be alive, like, to be an Irish rugby player and have the opportunity to play in front of a full house against the best team in the world. This is where you want to be.”

IRELAND (v New Zealand, Saturday, Aviva Stadium, 3.15pm): Hugo Keenan (Leinster); Andrew Conway (Munster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster), Bundee Aki (Connacht), James Lowe (Leinster); Johnny Sexton (Leinster, capt), Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster); Andrew Porter (Leinster), Rónan Kelleher (Leinster), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster); Iain Henderson (Ulster), James Ryan (Leinster); Caelan Doris (Leinster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster), Jack Conan (Leinster).

Replacements: Rob Herring (Ulster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Finlay Bealham (Connacht), Tadhg Beirne (Munster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster), Conor Murray (Munster), Joey Carbery (Munster), Keith Earls (Munster).

NEW ZEALAND: Jordie Barrett; Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sevu Reece; Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Ethan Blackadder, Dalton Papali'i, Ardie Savea.

Replacements: Dane Coles, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa'i, Akira Ioane, Finlay Christie, Richie Mo'unga, David Havili.