In any tour, the opening game is the most important because it is then that you set out your stall for the remainder of the tour.
So said Ireland team manager Brian O’Brien after announcing the starting line-up.
We would hope to get as many of the squad on the field as is possible and practicable and also to look at as many combinations as we can. To that end for example, we have paired David Humphreys and Guy Eastterby, to give players the opportunity on the pitch.
So far O’Brien is happy with the way things have gone. It was along and tiring journey out here, he said, and it takes a few days to adjust. But I’d be very happy with the way the lads have worked. There’s a good vibe in the camp and in many ways the difficulties we had with cry-offs before we left have worked in our favour. You see the replacements bring their own enthusiasm and that is very evident in training in the few short days that we’ve been here.
Looking forward to Saturday’s game, O’Brien is expecting the New Zealand Divisional side to be, tough and very physical. We’ve watched videos of their games and we know some of the players who will be involved. So there’ll be nothing easy about this. And as I said already, the opening game of a tour is so important.
Last time out Noel McQuikin’s side came from behind to snatch a draw against the John Kirwan coached Italian side and Saturday will no doubt have already been pencilled in as an opportunity to put one over on an international side.