Declan Kidney admitted the challenge of facing New Zealand next month “is a bit sadistic but you couldn’t wish for anything else.”
The Ireland coach yesterday named three uncapped players — Ulster prop Declan Fitzpatrick and Munster duo Mike Sherry and Simon Zebo — in his 29-man squad for the three-Test summer tour against the world champions. Kidney has left four spaces in his selection as Paul O’Connell, Brett Wilkinson, Chris Henry and Isaac Boss battle to prove their fitness.
Kidney described next month’s tour as the ultimate test.
“It is the equivalent of the soccer teams going to Brazil and trying to play them three times. You can do the analogy with each of the sports.”
Kidney remembers every detail of a chastening experience against an experimental All Blacks team two years ago when Ireland shipped 66 points.
“We felt (then) it was a good time to get them, they played three or four guys for the first time but I don’t look at any New Zealander looking to let his jersey down. It’s their first game after winning the World Cup, it’s at Eden Park and you could argue it’s not a good time to meet them. It’s a fantastic place to go as a rugby person, it’s a bit sadistic but you couldn’t wish for anything else.
“It’s vital that we get more exposure for some of our fellas to experience that brand of rugby. It’s not unbeatable, but it is a different brand and unless we expose our fellas to that more, then every time a World Cup comes around we will lose out.
“That’s why it’s important our U20’s experience it when they go to competition. The more often you play them, the more benefit you get. If you have to suffer a little along the way then so be it but there will be no gains without going through that.”
Les Kiss, Ireland’s defence coach, hopes for less pain and more gain, but refused to try and second guess what formula the incoming New Zealand coach Steve Hansen will come up with.
“They have two further new coaches in Ian Foster and Brian “Aussie” McLean; Will they try to bring something different? We have sat down and talked about it, about the options they have, will they change their defence structure or play with what has served them strongly?
“We have looked through all of that; I guess the nuts and bolts is that if we can use the little time we have to get our things right and front up, then we’ll be in a good place, but we have to be able to adapt within the game if they come up with something different.”
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