Ireland stick with Kiwi trio for New Zealand clash

·2-min read
James Lowe (R) is one of three New Zealand-born players selected by Ireland head coach Andy Farrell to face the All Blacks in their one-off rugby Test on Saturday (AFP/Paul Faith)

New Zealand-born trio Bundee Aki, James Lowe and Jamison Gibson Park will all start for Ireland against the All Blacks in the one-off Test at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

They featured in the 60-5 rout of Japan last Saturday with head coach Andy Farrell making just the one change to that starting XV bringing in Iain Henderson to the second row.

Tadhg Beirne drops to the bench.

Farrell said this was just the sort of challenge he and his side relished.

"What a time to be alive and be an Irish rugby player playing against the best team in the world," said Farrell at Thursday's press conference.

"This (the All Blacks) is a full-bore very experienced team and a similar side we came up against in the Rugby World Cup, certainly the front five.

"There are threats all over the field and this is the type of game we want to test ourselves against the best.

"It is a privilege to play them and we will four times in the next year.

"The tour next year (they will play three Tests) will test us to the hilt but we will really learn a lot about ourselves this weekend."

Johnny Sexton captains the side in what will be his 101st Test and the 14th time he has faced New Zealand -- including the only two victories they have recorded against them (2016/18).

Another New Zealand-born player Joey Carbery provides back-up to him as fly-half on the bench.

Gibson Parks's selection could be seen as a clear indication that he and not veteran Conor Murray is the preferred half-back partner for Sexton two years out from the World Cup.

"He played really well against Japan and deserves to start," said Farrell.

"He is more comfortable in his skin and his maturity has gone through the roof at this level."

Lowe gets the nod after what Farrell said was a much-improved performance all-round by the 29-year-old winger against Japan following some criticism of him during the Six Nations this year.

Aki will partner Garry Ringrose in the centres for the 14th time.

The last time the two sides met in Dublin in 2018 the Irish came out on top 16-9 -- their first ever home win over them -- but the All Blacks whipped them 46-14 a year later in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

Team (15-1)

Hugo Keenan; Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (capt), Jamison Gibson Park; Jack Conan; Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris; James Ryan, Iain Henderson; Tadhg Furlong, Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Porter

Replacements: Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Keith Earls

Coach: Andy Farrell


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