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In Pics: Ireland Training In Auckland (3)

In Pics: Ireland Training In Auckland (3)

Click here for photos of the Ireland squad training at the Auckland Grammar School on Thursday.

Pictured above: Ireland out-half Ronan O’Gara keeps his eyes firmly on the ball at Thursday’s training session in Auckland.

Asked at the team announcement press conference how Ireland can end their long wait for a win over the All Blacks on Saturday, skipper Brian O’Driscoll said: “By making everything a little more crisp, defensively being as strong, if not stronger, and taking our opportunities.

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“Looking back at the video, we had more opportunities to score more points and we didn’t take them. You have to do that against the All Blacks because they’ll take their opportunities.”

Defensive coach Graham Steadman gathers the Irish squad in for a talk at the Auckland Grammar School.

Graham Steadman jokes around with Ireland full-back Geordan Murphy, whose Achilles tendon strain has him rated doubtful for Saturday’s second Test.

In his Sunday Times column, Murphy revealed: “I was quietly chuffed when the locals started booing Rog’s (O’Gara’s) penalty in the second half; so much for the great sporting public. It showed we had them rattled, but that’s not enough. If we want to get the respect of the Kiwis, we have to beat them finally. It’s the only thing they understand.”

Previewing the second Test, the Kildare man added: “I know they will be a better team on Saturday. I’m sure they will work hard on their lineout because we caused all sorts of problems there, even allowing for the presence of Chris Jack.

“With so much pressure for places, it could be seen as a last-chance saloon for a couple of them. But maybe we can pick ourselves up and find the extra few percent we need.”

Wasps out-half Jeremy Staunton carries the ball forward under pressure from Jerry Flannery and Neil Best at training.

Saturday’s second Test is expected to be a sell-out at Eden Park in Auckland, although as of earlier today there were still some 5,000 tickets available for the New Zealand-Ireland tie. Auckland Rugby Marketing manager Grant McKenzie said that as the Test is the first of two that the ground will hold this year, this could be having an effect on ticket sales.

Brian O’Driscoll was a member of the Irish side that went close to winning the first Test but lost the second heavily (40-8) on Ireland’s 2002 tour to New Zealand. O’Driscoll said: “In 2002, again we played well in the first Test, one of those narrow defeats and we let ourselves down in the second Test.

“The All Blacks are certainly going to be better (at Eden Park) than they were at the weekend, history’s shown that.

“But we like to think that we have something left in reserve as well. We don’t want to be another one of those sides that goes well in the first Test, is narrowly beaten and then capitulates in the second Test.”

Brian O’Driscoll clears a ball away from a ruck during training. The skipper’s midfield partner Gordon D’Arcy is banking on a good start from the men in green on Saturday.

The Leinster centre told XtraMSN: “We shot ourselves in the foot by allowing an early try in each half (last week). We just need to start well, and when we get the ball, move it like we did at times in the first Test when we caused them problems.”

Describing his role at centre alongside O’Driscoll, D’Arcy said: “It’s always a treat playing with the guy, he makes my job really easy. I can almost throw blind passes these days, I know he’s going to be steaming onto it.

“We’ve played against or with each other since we were 16, and I suppose at times we almost take each other for granted.”

Shielding himself from the rain, Ireland video analyst Mervyn Murphy, a former centre with Connacht and Ireland ‘A’, captures the session from on high at the Auckland Grammar School.

**All photos by Billy Stickland of Inpho Photography**

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