It seems a long time ago since the Ireland squad gathered for their pre-World Cup training camp in Limerick. Since last July, Ireland’s fortunes have dipped but hoping to tap into Leinster and Munster’s recent successes, the men in green are this week chasing a history-making win over New Zealand.
Niall O’Donovan and Michael Bradley have linked up to guide Ireland through this tour of New Zealand and Australia, with the pair having worked together successfully during the 2005 summer tour to Japan.
O’Donovan, in his continued brief as forwards coach, have a very experienced pack at his disposal for Saturday’s game – the starting eight boast 258 Test caps – and despite Ireland’s winless run against the All Blacks, confidence in the camp is high.
“We’re coming over here to play the best team in the world. I know there was a hiccup in the World Cup but they’re rated as the best team in the world,” O’Donovan said.
“We’ve built up a lot of confidence over the years and especially on the back of Munster’s recent win in the Heineken Cup.
“I think the lads are confident coming into the match. It’s a big game for them, they have got to perform at the highest level to compete with the All Blacks but I think they’re up for the challenge.”
O’Donovan insisted that the Munster players have had no problem leaving the Heineken Cup celebrations back home. Eager for this opportunity to beat Graham Henry’s men, there are seven Munster players in the Irish pack for this weekend’s Test.
“The Munster guys are in great shape, I think they’re looking forward to this game. A lot of them were involved when we narrowly lost the two Tests over here two years ago.
“The will is there to go one better, again they have to be playing to the best of their ability to match New Zealand.”
One of the major talking points heading into the 21st meeting between the countries is the fact that the game will be played under the ‘old’ laws and not the ELVs which the All Black players have been getting used to in the Super 14 competition.
Agreeing that it could be viewed as an advantage for Ireland, O’Donovan added: “It’s funny for New Zealand to be playing the new laws last week (in the Super 14) and then coming into the old laws in a game refereed by a Northern Hemisphere referee.
‘It doesn’t make any difference to us really but from a New Zealand perspective it is strange to be chopping and changing the way they are. It might help us, it definitely won’t be a hindrance to us.”