New Zealand may have lost a sizeable chunk of their World Cup squad to injury, retirement or overseas contracts, but David Wallace knows Ireland will be up against it at the Westpac Stadium on Saturday no matter who lines out against them.
Flanker David Wallace, still buoyant after Munster’s Heineken Cup triumph, is eager to be part of the first Ireland team to beat an All Blacks side but he knows they will get nothing easy in Wellington.
Commenting on what is a much-changed New Zealand squad, Wallace said: “I think whoever comes in will do a job for them. New Zealand have great strength in depth. The players who come in are going to be as good and probably hungrier as well.
“This country is a breeding ground for players and they always seem to be able to field a strong team because of their strength in depth. They have injuries but the guys coming in are as good if not better.
“It’s always difficult facing them and beating them and we never have. When we go out on Saturday we have a chance of becoming the first team to do that.”
If Ireland do win, it would be a particularly sweet victory for Wallace and company after the men in green came so close to breaking the All Black hoodoo two years ago in Hamilton and Auckland.
Winning is Ireland’s sole focus, admits Wallace, but he agreed that it is a pleasure to play rugby in this part of the world where the game is so cherished.
“New Zealand is always a great place to come and tour. It’s such an intense rugby place and it’s great to be involved in that atmosphere. The matches are difficult, but it’s great the public are so into it.
“You really get the sense it’s a big occasion because rugby is so important here. It’s good to be involved in an environment like this,” the Limerick man said.
“Every time we go out to play New Zealand, it’s the best opportunity to beat them, and we have yet to do it.
“They have a lot of guys coming into their squad now and they will be hungry and will want to impress the management. We’re going out, like every game you go out, to win it. It has got to be your focus.”
Wallace will slug it out again this weekend with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, whom he rates very highly. Just as it was in 2006, it looks set to be a terrific head-to-head between the two opensides.
“Anytime you face a team like New Zealand, you’re up against it. That’s what you want to be doing in professional rugby, playing against the best. You relish that chance,” Wallace added.
“I’ve played against Richie twice (in 2006) and I thought I did okay, but he is very good on the ground. You nearly have to put two guys on him!”