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Stephen Ferris: Sexton key to Ireland hopes against All Blacks

| 07.07.2022

New Zealand crushed Ireland in the first Test at Eden Park and the teams clash again on Saturday in Dunedin.

Ireland captain Jonny Sexton failed an on-pitch assessment during the first half of last weekend’s 42-19 defeat and left the field without returning, but has been passed fit to face the All Blacks this weekend.

Former Ireland international Stephen Ferris gives Ladbrokes his thoughts ahead of the game…

So, it’s 1-0 to the All Blacks after a convincing enough win last Saturday in Auckland against the Irish. But what way is it likely to go in the second test match in Dunedin?

Well, the last time the All Blacks lost in Dunedin was way back in 2009 against France. Granted, they don’t play many Test matches in this city, but it’s still not a great stat for any Irish fans reading this blog.

Put history aside, the Ireland team showed in spells last week that they can cause New Zealand huge problems. Ireland had nearly 60% possession and territory but still somehow conceded 42 points. Ireland looked sharp in attack and will be glad to see Sexton fit again to lead his side into battle. There is no question about it, when Jonny Sexton plays, this Ireland team function to a much higher standard. But how do Ireland contain a team full of individual brilliance and collective dominance?

Last Saturday, a 20-minute blitz saw the Kiwis take a commanding lead into the changing rooms at half-time and playing catch-up against New Zealand is always going to be a tough ask. Any mistakes Ireland made the All Blacks pounced, and it usually ended up in a seven-pointer with the Irish lads looking at each other underneath the posts asking the same question I was thinking:  ‘what the heck just happened?’

Ireland firstly need to keep Sexton on the field for longer than 20 minutes. They also need to be better at the scrum and line-out. And lastly, they have to make their tackles stick. You might get away with slipping off tackles once or twice, but time and time again and it will always end up badly. Ireland have shown the world they can mix it with the best on their home patch in Dublin, now it’s time to deliver away from home against world-class opposition.

To put into context how big a challenge this is for Ireland, New Zealand in their last five home wins against Ireland have beaten them by a margin of 31 points. Yes, we know there was a 60-point drubbing in 2012, but nonetheless, getting a Test victory down in New Zealand is going to be extremely tough for the boys in green.

There aren’t too many changes for either side for the second Test. Mack Hansen comes in on the wing for Ireland replacing last week’s try-scorer Keith Earls. And on the New Zealand team their only change comes at lock. Scott Barrett moving from six into the second row to cover the injured Sam Whitelock. Two very similar teams again this week will lock horns at 8.05am (UK time) on Saturday morning. It should be another cracker, and hopefully Ireland will have learnt a few lessons from their heavy defeat last week.


It’s a 13-point handicap, and I feel this game will be a lot closer than last week. Ireland are more settled, have had a big game under their belt and now know what to expect. That said, New Zealand to win between 11-15 points at 5/1 looks an interesting bet.

First try-scorer

Ireland to get the first try two weeks in a row? Why not. James Lowe for first try at 14/1

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Warren Barner