…Horan: Attitude Has To Be Right…Ankle Not A Worry For Williams…Important Match Information…Say What?…Numbers Game…
HORAN: ATTITUDE HAS TO BE RIGHT: Ask most Irish rugby fans and the only thing they will remember from the All Blacks’ last visit to Dublin in November 2005 was Marcus Horan’s late try which saved Ireland from being ‘nilled.’
The 45-7 defeat still rankles Horan and the Munster prop would dearly love some retribution at Croke Park on Saturday.
Graham Henry’s men have ventured north trying to end their year with a ‘Grand Slam’ tour. Ireland are looking to build on last weekend’s 55-0 win over Canada and plant the seeds from which the Declan Kidney era will grow.
Something or someone has got to give on Saturday evening and Horan has no intention of budging.
“It’s the greatest challenge, I suppose. Every player wants to be part of a team that gets a ‘first’ and in this case it’s a first ever win for Ireland over New Zealand,” he said.
“Irish teams have come close over the years but you always look to the next one as an opportunity.
“In years gone by, these games weren’t as frequent as they are now. So we’re getting more and more chances to have a cut at them but we need to take one of these chances.”
The 31-year-old underlined how important a positive start will be for Ireland against Henry’s side and how they have to box clever and stamp their authority on the game.
“Obviously the start of a game against the All Blacks is always very important. How we take the pitch and our attitude towards them is key.
“Sometimes teams have been overawed by them and maybe have let them away with scores and then they’re chasing the game.
“For us, we’ve played them a few times now and there’s a lot of guys there with experience of playing them.
“We’ve got to get stuck in and not let them settle. Croke Park is a new place for them to come and the atmosphere, I’m sure, will be huge.
“We need to hit the ground running, really take them on up front and hopefully upset them early on.”
Horan pinpointed the forward collisions and set pieces as the crucial areas where this weekend’s Test will be won and lost.
He explained: “I think the key battles will probably be up front. If we can get on top in lineouts and scrums and at the breakdown, that would go a huge way to beating them.
“But there’s so much else that could happen in between. They’re very good at scoring tries out of nothing.
“You might be doing all the right things, working your ass off inside there and getting things right, and one small mistake, one lapse in concentration might be the difference between winning and losing.”
We saw them during the June Test between the sides when snappy line breaks from Conrad Smith and Dan Carter led to two crucial tries in the All Blacks’ 21-11 success in Wellington.
“Concentration for the full 80 is key for us and making sure everyone is playing well and even playing beyond themselves a small bit,” Horan added.
ANKLE NOT A WORRY FOR WILLIAMS: New Zealand lock Ali Williams has been nursing an ankle injury since the June Test against England in Christchurch but insists that it will not prevent him from playing in all five of the All Blacks autumn Tests, if required.
“It would be awesome. I’m very keen to play all five if that’s the best thing for the team – and if not, I’m happy to see the team go out without me,” said the 6ft 7in forward.
Williams has become as important to the All Blacks side as his fellow second row Paul O’Connell is to the Irish cause.
The 27-year-old is itching to get his first taste of Croke Park this weekend, which, despite the ankle knock, will be his 13th Test start of the calendar year.
A fine run which he will probably extend in the coming weeks, as he admitted: “The ankle is slowly getting better. At this stage, I feel comfortable.”
After performing the haka for the 59th time, Williams and his second row partner Brad Thorn will renew rivalries with Irish duo Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan whom he rates highly.
“As a pair they are one of the best in the world. As an individual, I think Paul is a great man off the field. He is a good sort,” said the Aucklander.
“We’ve had a few beers together. On the field they give you everything as well.
“I’ve played the Irish twice and physically you have to be on your game or they will walk all over you. This one is going to be no different.”
IMPORTANT MATCH INFORMATION: To ensure the comfort and safety of spectators at Saturday’s GUINNESS Series 2008 Test between Ireland and New Zealand at Croke Park, the Commitee of the Irish Rugby Football Union, in consultation with the Garda authorities, request that note be taken of the following points:
– Stiles open at 3.15pm
– Admission to all parts of the ground is by ticket only
– All patrons, including children, require a ticket to gain admission
– Patrons are asked to attend at least one hour before kick-off to avoid delays and co-operate with stewards and Gardai
– Patrons are reminded that parking in the Croke Park area is prohibited and cars parked illegally are liable to be clamped or impounded
– Car parking is available in Clonliffe College or the Parnell Street or Marlborough Street car parks
– Please respect property. Do not litter in the Croke Park area
– Patrons are reminded that rain gear and warm clothing is recommended for all parts of the ground
– Patrons are asked to respect the residents of the surrounding areas and are reminded that Croke Park stadium is a smoke-free stadium
“I think it was seven or eight years ago when he was in charge of the Lions, he was good enough to let me into a few of the Lions training sessions when the lads were in Australia.
“Not the meetings but I got to see the training sessions and stuff like that, so it’s a bit like coming up against your former teacher. He’s a good man, his record is excellent.”
– Ireland coach Declan Kidney gives his thoughts on his opposite number this weekend, New Zealand supremo Graham Henry, who was head coach of the 2001 British & Irish Lions
“It is a huge honour. It was a huge honour getting cap number one and then being capped as captain of your country. I never dreamed of amassing 50 caps as captain.
“It’s special and you want to mark occasions by playing the biggest teams. We have the All Blacks at Croke Park – it doesn’t come much bigger than that.
“It’s a hugely exciting prospect and it’s one that we’re all looking forward to.”
– Brian O’Driscoll talks about the honour of captaining Ireland for the 50th time and how special it will be for him and his team-mates to meet the challenge of the All Blacks this weekend
“That was an eye opener for some of our young guys. It was intense and passionate and they (Scotland) should have got a lot closer than they did. We were under the pump for quite a long period of time.
“We think Ireland will be a lot better than that and if that’s the case we will be in for a rip snorter.
“I wouldn’t like to say where they stand in the pecking order. You prove that through your Six Nations performance and they have that in front of them.”
– Reflecting on the win over Scotland and looking ahead to Saturday’s meeting with Ireland, New Zealand assistant coach Wayne Smith says the tourists will be in for a tough time if the Irish play to their potential
210 – The total number of points Ireland have scored in their 21 Test matches to date against New Zealand. The highest score Ireland have managed against the All Blacks was in their 40-29 loss at Lansdowne Road in November 2001
53 – The biggest winning margin posted by New Zealand during their unbeaten run against Ireland was in their 59-6 victory over the tourists in Wellington in June 1992
2.4 – The gap between eighth-placed Ireland and Wales, the seventh-ranked team in the current IRB World Rankings, is 2.4 rating points. A first win for Ireland over the All Blacks at Croke Park on Saturday would close that gap considerably