Joe Schmidt predicted a spiky and manic contest with the All Blacks this Saturday after naming his Ireland side to face the world champions in Dublin.
There are four changes to the side which saw off Argentina 28-17 in last weekend’s Guinness Series opener at the Aviva Stadium as the head coach seeks to cover injuries to Sean O’Brien and Robbie Henshaw while attempting to fix weaknesses in the Irish performance exposed in the win over the Pumas.
Dan Leavy is the man to replace O’Brien at openside flanker just as he did off the bench when last Saturday’s starter broke his forearm just before half-time. That despite missing training himself on Thursday as the Irish management seek to manage Leavy’s workload.
Henshaw was injured in the warm-up last weekend and subsequently ruled out for the rest of the November Test window with a hamstring problem.
He was replaced at outside centre by first-time Test starter Will Addison in time for the kick-off against Argentina but Schmidt has left the Ulster back out his matchday 23 for this weekend instead naming a fit-again Garry Ringrose after he recovered from a knock to his hip suffered in training last week.
The other two changes come at lock and full-back with Devin Toner returning to the second row at the expense of Iain Henderson, who drops to the bench, and Rob Kearney resuming his customary role as starting number 15 in place of the less experienced Jordan Larmour.
Toner, set for his 63rd cap, has been brought in to shore up a lineout that fell well short of the usual high standards under pressure from the Pumas, while Kearney will win his 87th cap on Saturday having overcome a shoulder injury.
The experienced duo will step back into the frontline to face a New Zealand side which left its mark on the Irish on their last visit to Dublin two years, exacting a brutal revenge for their defeat in Chicago a fortnight earlier in a 21-9 victory that was delivered on the back of some overly physical challenges that went largely unpunished by match referee Jaco Peyper.
“I think people can make their own minds up about those,” Schmidt said on Thursday. “I know the feedback we got was there were some that were unnecessary. The were some decisions made by the referee that day that befuddled everybody.
Schmidt insisted Ireland would not need to reinvent the wheel as far as their approach to playing the All Blacks was concerned. The preparations this week, he said, had been:
“Not too much different. We weren't that far away in that Test, 14-9 with 15 minutes to go, that's a one-score game.
“When Malakai Fekitoa scored the try that gave them the bridge I suppose that was a little bit too far to cross. Even then we got quite close to their line, Seanie (O’Brien) almost went over, Rob Kearney was dragged down short.
“So we weren't too far away. And so along those lines we've just got to be prepared for what they are going to bring.
“They've got a hot side out. We know they'll come after us in some areas because we know that they did last time. They came at us off kick-off. They certainly, based on what they did to England last week, will come after our lineout. And they go after most scrums.
“But that's been an area of strength for us, so we'll try to make sure that stays rock-solid for us. So apart from that when the game's up and running it's likely to be fairly manic.”