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News article – Style E 5935

News article – Style E 5935

New Zealand can expect to face Ireland’s best available side when they clash with Eddie O’Sullivan’s men in Hamilton next Saturday.

…Eddie O’Sullivan…

New Zealand can expect to face Ireland’s best available side when they clash with Eddie O’Sullivan’s men in Hamilton next Saturday.

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The Irish touring party touched down in Auckland on Sunday with the players taking part in a light training session on the back pitch at Eden Park a few hours later.

Talking to reporters afterwards, Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan said the players were in good shape ahead of their first outing since March’s Triple Crown triumph at Twickenham.

He explained: “We did a good week’s work at the camp in Limerick (last week) so a lot of the groundwork is done.

“Coming off the back of such a good season, provincially and nationally, the guys are well prepared mentally, and they’re quite fresh physically. There is a lot of enthusiasm and confidence there at the moment, and that’s a great way to travel.”

Asked about arriving on Kiwi soil just six days before the first Test, O’Sullivan replied: “A lot of this jet lag thing is between the ears – you’ve got to get up and get on with it.”

The All Blacks are on a seven-game winning streak – their last defeat was to South Africa in the Tri-Nations in Cape Town last August – but with the World Cup only 15 months away, coach Graham Henry will be trying out some new combinations for the series with Ireland.

On the subject of facing a less-than-full-strength All Blacks outfit, O’Sullivan said: “New Zealand have the most skilful side in the world at the moment. People are hopeful they will run out of steam before the World Cup.

“When you have a schedule like theirs (with the Tri-Nations coming up), you have to work your squad a bit. I think Graham has got that sort of strength in depth at the moment where he can do that and I think most coaches in world rugby would like to have that latitude. What he’s got to do is make sure he wins all his game.

“You don’t mess around in the Southern Hemisphere against teams like New Zealand and Australia. We’ll put our best side out in each game – we’re here to try and get a job done.”

The presence of former Waikato and Wellington Hurricanes scrum half Isaac Boss in the Irish squad has the locals talking. Unaware that the Tokoroa-born player is an Irish passport holder, one New Zealand photographer was heard to say at Sunday’s training session: “Here mate, there’s a guy in the Irish side that looks exactly like Isaac Boss.”

O’Sullivan handed the 26-year-old Boss his first call-up to the squad after his excellent form for Ulster in the Celtic League.

“Isaac wasn’t making the Ulster team for a while – he was in and out – but since he got a foothold in the side, he’s been improved all along. His form came very good towards the end of the provincial season,” said O’Sullivan.

“He’s played his way in here and has been very impressive.”

The Irish starting XV and replacements for the first Test against the All Blacks (Waikato Stadium, Saturday, 8.35am Irish time) will be named tomorrow around midday (New Zealand time). IrishRugby.ie will publish details of the team as soon as it is announced.

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