Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Why should we fear the Irish?

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Fat chance captain Richie McCaw will see his side fail tomorrow or next weekend when taking the ABs back to Christchurch for the first time since earthquakes ripped the city apart. Photo /Brett Phibbs
Fat chance captain Richie McCaw will see his side fail tomorrow or next weekend when taking the ABs back to Christchurch for the first time since earthquakes ripped the city apart. Photo /Brett Phibbs

Despite statistics, All Blacks coach knows it is dangerous to underestimate Ireland.

The record run dates back to 1905, the statistics show the All Blacks have triumphed 23 times out of the 24 times they have played Ireland.

It has not mattered where they have met - Lansdowne Rd, Athletic Park, Carisbrook, Ellis Park during the 1995 World Cup, Eden Park, Waikato Stadium, Westpac Stadium, Croke Park or Yarrow Stadium.

No Irish side, except the 1973 team which claimed a 10-all draw at Lansdowne Rd, has stared strongly at a victory against the All Blacks.

There have been close tussles like the 1992 contest at Carisbrook when the All Blacks needed four converted tries to hold off the visitors 24-21.

Nine times the sides have clashed in New Zealand and while Ireland went close 20 years ago, their next best have been eight and nine-point defeats.

So what's to fear from Ireland, especially from a side which must be weary after nearly a year in their rugby kit?

Do they have some way of making history on this three-match trip which, under the unusual IRB tours schedule, will be their last to New Zealand for 12 years?

All sorts of theories inhabit the rugby world.

They begin with the idea that Ireland's best shot is in the opening skirmish at Eden Park tomorrow because the All Blacks always take time to tune into each other's play and the nuances of test rugby.

If so, then Auckland needs to be convinced of this brave new world because the ground is still shy of a sellout to watch Steve Hansen's men go round for the first time.

Others might come with an angle that the second test will be Ireland's chance because the All Blacks will relax in the middle of the series.

Fat chance of that you would think with captain Richie McCaw taking his side back to Christchurch for the first time since earthquakes ripped the southern city apart.

Maybe the third and last test then in Hamilton?

If results go as the bulk of the country believes, the All Blacks will arrive with a 2-0 series lead and thoughts of using some of the less-credentialled players in their group.

If a side included Ben Tameifuna, Wyatt Crockett, Luke Romano, Sam Cane, Beauden Barrett, Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith, there could be some potential for a shock.

But that is a fortnight away and by then Ireland may be in more of a jumble than they are without the injured Paul O'Connell, Stephen Ferris and Tommy Bowe on this tour.

If there has been any All Black over-confidence, it will have been knocked out of them by the new coaching staff and Scotland's shock mid-week win against the Wallabies.

The lesson, said Steve Hansen, was telegraphed loud and clear. Any thoughts beyond tomorrow had to be wiped away.

"Ireland won't be coming here with any other attitude than to win," Hansen said.

"We saw in their last performance at Eden Park against Australia [at the World Cup] that they are capable of putting good performances together. Clearly Australia may have underestimated Scotland.

"They have a busy week, maybe they were thinking about the second test [against Wales] they had this week. I'm not sure, but we can't fall into that trap.

"We've got to hit the ground running and running hard."

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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