Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Hapless Irish ripe for crushing

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Sonny Bill Williams in action against Ireland. He has yet to unleash his big guns.  Photo / Greg Bowker
Sonny Bill Williams in action against Ireland. He has yet to unleash his big guns. Photo / Greg Bowker

The Irish are in for one helluva hiding in the second test, and heaven help them in the third.

The forlorn hope a few of us old romantics had of an epic contest unfolding in this historic three-game series was laid to rest in the first half of the opening test at Eden Park.

The Irish, battered and bruised after a long and unsuccessful season, ended up with more lumps knocked out of their front row and, the fact is, the mob that has ended up in this country isn't good enough to beat the All Blacks anyway.

Ireland had to be in fine fettle, with their spirits high, to test the home side. They needed a feasible game plan to work off. Yes, the TV commentators gushed as Ireland chucked the ball around early on, but a decidedly inferior team playing wild rugby against the All Blacks in this country represents an invitation to disaster.

Those Irish salvos looked more like attempts to have something in the bank to save face with before the inevitable landslide buried them. Which it did.

The concerning aspect for the Irish, and those of us thirsting for a quality museum piece rather than an exhibition, is that the All Blacks didn't win going away. They triumphed by a whopping 32 points despite stalling for much of the second half for no particular reason - and certainly not one involving anything memorable from Ireland.

They won't stall again.

Trench warfare, slowing the game down and kicking with brains - those had to be the battle cries if the Irish were serious about this assignment. Only a tough-nut forward pack and halves prepared to play clever percentages would get close to getting this job done. In other words, they needed to play like England did in 2003.

Had Ireland brought over their very best pack, and not suffered a weird list of injuries to their props after arriving here, they may have had a chance ... of creating a contest. Maybe.

But they haven't and are in danger now of sending out a front row ripe to be crushed into the ground in Christchurch and Hamilton.

In the sort of form Daniel Carter has already shown, and with Sonny Bill Williams yet to unleash his big guns, you can only fear for the Irish. If a rampant Ma'a Nonu gets a shot, they will be in just as much trouble.

The All Blacks fell into a hole in the second half and, in particular, it is difficult to work out what the war-torn Ali Williams is still doing in the test side when younger firebrands such as Luke Romano and Jarrad Hoeata are itching to get test careers underway.

Williams isn't needed in this series and sadly his race is almost run because leg injuries have deleted his significant X-factor. No replacement stood out on Saturday night though.

Even those of us who still support Piri Weepu would admit he was a lemon in the second half. Weepu needs to start tests to find his game, but Aaron Smith will be hard to dislodge.

The sun may be setting on Ali, but not so the other Williams, whose best is yet to come. Ireland did a good job of snuffing out the offloading danger he presents, partly because his new All Black coaches didn't do anything subtle or creative around him. No doubt they concentrated heavily on the basics for the first test.

But Ireland won't be able to hold SBW for much longer. If Sonny Bill gets his best game out, and the All Black bench pulls its weight instead of fluffing about as in Auckland, then 60 points is well within reach.

Perhaps a difference between the All Blacks and the other major teams over history is that they are more ruthless for the kill. Right now, Richie McCaw's troops smell blood.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Read more by Chris Rattue

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