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Numbers Game: Ireland v New Zealand

Numbers Game: Ireland v New Zealand

Played 17, Won 0, Drawn 1 and Lost 16. Not a pretty record but can Ireland follow in the footsteps of England and Wales and beat the world-famous All Blacks tomorrow?

Ronan O’Gara praticising his kicking with Mark Tainton on Friday

Played 17, Won 0, Drawn 1 and Lost 16. Not a pretty record but can Ireland follow in the footsteps of England and Wales and beat the world-famous All Blacks tomorrow?

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HOME NATIONS: Of the home nations, only England (their latest win coming two years ago in Wellington) and Wales (1953 being their last success) have succeeded in beating New Zealand.

The closest Ireland came to getting the better of the All Blacks was at Lansdowne Road in 1973. Fly-half Barry McGann kicked two penalties to add to a try from winger Tom Grace as the spoils were shared in a 10-all draw.

The closest the current set-up came was in the 2002’s first Test at Carisbrook – the notorious “House of Pain” – it took a late try from Leon MacDonald to finally give John Mitchell’s All Blacks some breathing space and a 15-6 win. Brian O’Driscoll dropped an early goal and Ronan O’Gara landed a second half penalty for Eddie O’Sullivan’s tourists.


CAPS TOTALS: Ireland may be minus the experienced trio of Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell and Denis Hickie due to injury, as well as Reggie Corrigan, Anthony Foley and Kevin Maggs who have failed to make the matchday 22, but Eddie O’Sullivan’s starting XV will still boast 462 Test caps when they take to the Lansdowne Road sward tomorrow.

Ireland’s record caps holder Malcolm O’Kelly will make his 74th appearance for his country, while Ulster winger Tommy Bowe and Munster back row Denis Leamy – who both made their first outings with the Ireland squad in last year’s autumn internationals – are preparing for their fourth appearance each in green.

The much-changed New Zealand starting XV, on the other hand, tallies up 249 caps in all. There are two debutants in Auckland prop John Afoa and Taranaki lock Jason Eaton, who has yet to play a Super 12 game.

Aaron Mauger, the former Suttonians centre, and team captain for tomorrow Richie McCaw are two of the All Blacks’ more experienced players in the side. Lansdowne Road holds special memories for the duo as they both made their Test debuts against Ireland in the 40-29 win there in November 2001 – they were both 20.


AVERAGE AGE: Predictably, the All Blacks are the younger fifteen – with an average age of 24. Indeed, their pack is one of the youngest they have fielded in recent years. Auckland hooker Keven Mealamu may well be dubbed “Old Man Mealamu” at just 26!

Coach Graham Henry has selected five 24-year-olds in his forward unit – captain McCaw, prop Tony Woodcock, lock Ali Williams, flanker Sione Lauaki and number 8 Mose Tuiali’i. Auckland winger Doug Howlett (48 caps) will be the most experienced All Black on show from the kick-off tomorrow, Crusaders full-back Leon MacDonald is the eldest – he turns 28 next month.

Newcomers Afoa and Eaton are just 22 and 23.

The average age of the Irish starting XV is 27 – Saracens hooker Shane Byrne is the elder statesman at 34, while Ulster flyer Bowe is the youngest at 21.


TOP POINTS SCORERS: Ireland’s top scorer against the All Blacks will start on the bench tomorrow – Ulster’s David Humphreys (14 points – a conversion, 2 penalties and 2 drop goals). All of Humphreys’ points came in the 2001 meeting between the sides which ended in a 40-29 victory for New Zealand.

The ’01 tie at Lansdowne Road also saw Humphreys’ opposite number Andrew Mehrtens score a personal tally of 33 points – a record in the Ireland v New Zealand fixture. Mehrtens scored a record 81 points against Ireland in his Test career.

Munster man O’Gara (9 points – 3 penalties) should overtake Humphreys though. Of former internationals, fly-half Peter Russell scored 11 points against the ‘Blacks in his career, hooker Keith Wood 10, and ex-number 10s Eric Elwood and McGann 9 each.

Wood scored two tries in the 1997 clash at Lansdowne Road. Former centre Vinny Cunningham did likewise against the Kiwis in ’92.

Watch out for New Zealand full-back McDonald, who scored three tries over two Tests when Ireland visited the Land of the Long White Cloud in 2002.


Richie McCaw at Friday’s Captain’s Run at Lansdowne Road

FORM: We take a look at the sides’ recent form. Since June 2002’s second Test, which the All Blacks won 40-8, Ireland have secured 28 wins and 9 losses in 37 games.

The All Blacks have a won 33 – drew 1 – lost 6 record since June ’02.

Ireland: 2005: W28-17 v Italy (away), W40-13 v Scotland (away), W19-13 v England (home), L19-26 v France (home), L20-32 v Wales (away), W44-12 v Japan (away), W47-18 v Japan (away)

2004: L35-17 v France (away), W36-15 v Wales (home), W19-13 v England (away), W19-3 v Italy (home), W37-16 v Scotland (home), L17-31 v South Africa (away), L17-26 v South Africa (away), W17-12 v South Africa (home), W55-6 v USA (home), W21-19 v Argentina (home)

New Zealand: 2005: W41-3 v Wales (away), W34-24 v Australia (home), W31-27 v South Africa (home), W30-13 v Australia (away), L16-22 v South Africa (away), W38-19 v British & Irish Lions (home), W48-19 v British & Irish Lions (home), W21-3 v British & Irish Lions (home), W91-0 v Fiji (home)

2004: W36-3 v England (home), W36-12 v England (home), W41-7 v Argentina (home), W41-26 v Pacific Islanders (home), W16-7 v Australia (home), W23-21 v South Africa (home), L18-23 v Australia (home), W59-10 v Italy (away), W26-25 v Wales (away), W45-6 v France (away)



Played: 17

Ireland: W 0 D 1 L 16; New Zealand: W 16 D 1 L 0

Points Scored: Ireland: 152 (16 tries, 9 conversions, 19 penalties, 2 drop goals)

New Zealand: 411 (59 tries, 35 conversions, 27 penalties, 3 drop goals)

Highest Score: Ireland: 29 in 2001; New Zealand: 63 in 1997

Biggest Margin: Ireland: 0 in 1973; New Zealand: 53 in 1992

Most Tries: Ireland: 3 in 2001; New Zealand: 11 in 1992

Best Results: Ireland: 10-10 in 1973; New Zealand: 59-6 in 1992

RECENT MEETINGS: 2002: New Zealand 40 Ireland 8, New Zealand 15 Ireland 6; 2001: Ireland 40 New Zealand 29; 1997: Ireland 15 New Zealand 63; 1995RWC: Ireland 19 New Zealand 43; 1992: New Zealand 59 Ireland 6, New Zealand 24 Ireland 21; 1989: Ireland 6 New Zealand 23