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Stephen Ferris previews decisive Test between New Zealand and Ireland

| 13.07.2022

New Zealand v Ireland: Third Test

Ireland sensationally beat New Zealand in their own back yard for the first time last weekend to square the three-Test series and set up what should be a thrilling decider in Wellington.

Former Ireland international Stephen Ferris looks at the talking points for Saturday’s game.

Well, who would have thought it? Ireland beating New Zealand in Dunedin and creating history. Now it’s all to play for in Wellington at the Sky Stadium, or as many of the locals call it, the Cake Tin.

Ireland had n0t beaten the All Blacks in the first 28 matches between these nations, losing on 27 occasions. However, in recent times Ireland have won four of the last seven games. It really does feel like Ireland have their number, and the way New Zealand capitulated under pressure last week, rubberstamps everyone’s thoughts that the unbeatable aura of the All Blacks has now faded.

What did Ireland do differently from the first Test match? Well, they didn’t miss as many tackles, kept their concentration for the majority of the match, got their set-pieces right and, lastly, managed to keep Johnny Sexton on the pitch for 70 minutes.

Andrew Porter, New Zealand v Ireland second Test

Sexton conducted his Irish orchestra perfectly, and managed the referee superbly well during what was probably the most controversial first half of rugby I have ever watched. Yellow cards and a red card for New Zealand had the home fans going crazy in the stands, but the players have noone else to blame but themselves. Their discipline was shockingly bad and there is no question it impacted the final scoreline. If the All Blacks are going to return to winning ways they have to address their Achilles heel of this series and sort out the amount of costly penalties they are giving away.

The All Blacks are nine point favourites going into the third and final Test and 2/7 to win the match, with Ireland available at 11/4. It certainly feels very generous to New Zealand considering how emphatic a victory Ireland had last week. But, will it be a different story if NZ manage to keep 15 players on the pitch for 80 minutes? Many people think so and it’s very hard to disagree.

Yet again Ireland have a lot of consistency with their team selection. Garry Ringrose unfortunately misses out due to injury, so Bundee Aki will partner Robbie Henshaw in the centre. Two big men who will be relishing the physical battle with their opposite numbers, David Havili and Rieko Ioane. Will Jordan, who looked dangerous off the bench last weekend, starts on the wing for the All Blacks. They will also be glad to see Sam Whitelock back in their starting line-up, a player who was definitely missed last week.

Bundee Aki, New Zealand v Ireland second Test 2022

The weather in Wellington for the midweek match vs the Māori was absolutely atrocious, but thankfully, the forecast looks to be good and we should see another game of high intensity. A dry ball will suit both teams and hopefully the decider lives up to the pre-match build-up every man and their dog has been giving it.

Prediction

Winning a Test series in New Zealand couldn’t be done by the British and Irish Lions in 2017, so for Ireland to do achieve this would be truly remarkable. I’m expecting a backlash from the All Blacks. A fired-up and wounded team can be very dangerous, but the All Blacks have to be much smarter and control their discipline to back up what the bookies are thinking.

All the pressure is on New Zealand. If they lose then their head coach will probably face the sack. The country will go into mourning. Surely Ireland can’t pull this off….

New Zealand to win by between 6-10 points at 5/1 is my bet. Right on the handicap of 9 points.

Ireland created history last Saturday. It would not surprise me if they proved me and a lot of people wrong for the second week in a row. But I have to go with my head and not my heart…. Roll on Saturday 8.05am (UK Time). It should be a game for the ages.

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Author

Warren Barner