NZ Herald rugby writers Gregor Paul and Patrick McKendry break down three key questions as the All Blacks prepare to take on Ireland in Chicago.
1. In the year of the sporting upsets, and in the city of the Cubs, what is the chance Ireland overturn the weight of history?
Patrick McKendry:Slim at best. The All Blacks are without Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock, but are battle-hardened after a wildly successful Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup series. Ireland's last test was in June, a narrow loss to South Africa in Port Elizabeth which sealed a close series for the Boks. Looking at it from afar, the All Blacks seem pretty excited to be in Chicago and continuing their dominance against the Irish. They should have far too much fire-power across the field.
Gregor Paul: Not sure that these things are infectious as such but, sporting fairytales do serve as a reminder to aspiring underdogs that nothing is forever. Ireland are a good side with plenty of ability. They can trouble the All Blacks and they can certainly compete with them.But good enough to actually beat them? To do that, they will need the All Blacks to be some way off their best and for every piece of luck to go their way.
They are a giant maybe.
2. How will the All Blacks look to overwhelm the Irish?
PM:By putting them in a vice at the set piece and then finishing the job with Julian Savea, Waisake Naholo, Ben Smith and Beauden Barrett, four of the best attacking players in the world at the moment. The All Blacks will want to play at a pace well beyond what the Irish can cope with; big collisions at the contact area, a scrap at the breakdown, and the offloading and continuity play that few teams can match.
GP: The All Blacks will be keen to start well and set the tone early - they failed to do that in Dublin 2013 and got themselves a long way behind. And by start well - they will look for set-piece accuracy, quick ball and a high tempo so they can see how Ireland cope playing the game at a frenetic pace.
3. Which of the relative new boys - Patrick Tuipulotu, Liam Squire, and George Moala - are you most looking forward to seeing in action from the start?
PM: Liam Squire - he's played so well for the All Blacks as an impact player with his defence and ball carrying recently. Hopefully, for the All Blacks' sake, he can continue that in the No 6 jersey at Soldier Field. He's an exciting prospect.