Ireland coach Andy Farrell says “not over-playing the emotional card” will be essential if they are to beat New Zealand in the second Test and send the three-match series to a decider.
Farrell wants to see how his team respond to having their backs against the wall after going down 42-19 in last week’s first Test in Auckland, which followed the midweek team’s heavy defeat to the Maori All Blacks in the tour opener.
He said he can sense a desperation within his side heading into Saturday’s second Test in Dunedin, regarding it as a chance to prove they are better than they offered at Eden Park.
Meanwhile, the carrot of a first-ever Test win over the All Blacks on New Zealand soil is dangling again before them.
However, Farrell said any departure from their game plan will only play into the hands of a home side who fed ruthlessly off mistakes in the first Test, most notably during a four-try flurry in the second quarter to propel themselves 28-5 clear.
“We’ll see whether we’ve got the stomach for the pressure that’s going to be on us,” Farrell said.
“To be composed enough to play the game that we want to play, and do it better than last week, is absolutely key.
“Not over-playing the emotional card is important but at the same time, when you get an opportunity in a game like this, you’ve got to take it.”
Farrell is demanding improvement in Ireland’s set-piece work and the breakdown, the latter an aspect he has sought clarity on with South African referee Jaco Peyper, having been confused by how Englishman Karl Dickson controlled the collisions in the first Test.
If they can at least gain parity there, Farrell believes his side can make history if they improve their finishing.
The tourists enjoyed considerably more possession and territory than New Zealand but bombed no fewer than five try-scoring opportunities.
“We had plenty of opportunities to score but making sure when you get your moments, you take them, is obviously crucial,” he said.
“We had some good periods and built and built, and all of a sudden we’d lose a couple of moments. And then you miss one [tackle] and you’re under your sticks again.”
The most concerning statistic for New Zealand in Auckland was having to make more than 200 tackles.
Coach Ian Foster said he wanted his team to have a better grasp on possession, with turnovers likely to be more difficult to achieve in the “perfect” conditions created by playing under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Foster expects a fast game, possibly surpassing last week when a total of nine tries were scored and neither team attempted a penalty shot at goal – a rarity in modern Test rugby.
A forward pack reshuffle caused by a head injury for Sam Whitelock has resulted in the selection of speedy flanker Dalton Papalii in the only change to last week, suggesting the hosts will seek to play at pace.
However, Papalii said he won’t ignore the physical elements required to play on the blindside flank, the position held for many years by rugged All Blacks great Jerome Kaino, a former teammate at the Blues.
“I’ll play my own game, add my own flavour to the six jersey,” said Papalii, who has played most of his career on the openside flank.
“It’s up to me to leave a bit of a legacy of my name in that jersey. I’ve been following guys like Jerome growing up and then playing with him at the Blues and getting a few tips off him. Whatever comes, comes. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
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