All Blacks face formidable challenge from Irish, says Foster

·3-min read
New Zealand face a formidable challenge when they face Ireland in Dublin on Saturday says All Blacks head coach Ian Foster despite having hammered them the last time they met in the 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals (AFP/Anne-Christine POUJOULAT)

New Zealand face a formidable challenge to make it four wins from four games on their northern hemisphere tour when they play Ireland in a one-off Test on Saturday, All Blacks coach Ian Foster said.

The 56-year-old knows how dangerous the Irish can be having been assistant coach on two occasions when Saturday's hosts beat them in the past five years (2016/18).

However, he was also sitting alongside the man he replaced as head coach Steve Hansen when the All Blacks hammered Ireland 46-14 in the 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

"The relevance of 2018 is we do not like losing," Foster told a press conference on Thursday.

"But what we have learned ... is teams up here draw big crowds and they are excitable and get in behind the team.

"Having had no-one at Lansdowne Road over past couple of years think the noise level will be 110 percent on Saturday, if that is possible."

The All Blacks have swept aside their three opponents so far on the tour, scoring 104 points against the United States and 54 against a much-weakened Wales side and 47 in the win over Italy last weekend.

The Irish, though, are on a good run of their own with six successive Test wins including a 60-5 rout of Japan last Saturday.

- 'Put a marker down' -

"We've watched Ireland's development this year with interest, particularly through the latter part of the Six Nations and last week's big win over Japan," Foster said after naming his team.

"They are certainly playing with confidence and ambition and represent a formidable challenge."

He said they appeared to be playing a more expansive game under opposite number Andy Farrell than his predecessor Joe Schmidt.

"They are more at ease taking it wider so credit to them," he said.

"It means you have got to open your eyes as they have other threats to what they might have had 24 months ago."

Foster says his team are "still developing".

"These are the games you put a marker down for, they cannot wait to give it everything," he said.

Beauden Barrett -- who played a pivotal role in the World Cup victory -- gets the nod at fly-half ahead of Richie Mo'unga.

This sets him on course for an intriguing duel with Irish opposite number and fellow Test centurion Johnny Sexton.

Foster said his selection did not mean he was now considered the first-choice playmaker.

"We have two quality 10s (fly-halves) it is about as simple as I can say it," he said.

"I am really happy with both of them. In a messy game last weekend Richie showed some great touches.

"However, for what we want to do early in the match Beauden is the one."

Team (15-1)

Jordie Barrett; Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sevu Reece; Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Ardie Savea, Dalton Papalii, Ethan Blackadder; Samuel Whitelock (capt), Brodie Retallick; Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody

Replacements: Dane Coles, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa'i, Akira Ioane, Finlay Christie, Richie Mo'unga, David Havili

Coach: Ian Foster (NZL)

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