Read: All Blacks need to find new gear to overcome Ireland
DUBLIN (AP) — Captain Kieran Read believes his All Blacks will need to find a new gear to beat Ireland at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
New Zealand this year swept the home series against France, won another Rugby Championship, and overcame the English at Twickenham last weekend by blanking them for the last hour in the rain.
And, still, Read demanded on Friday another step up for the kind of challenge they relish.
“We’re going to need our best performance of the season, I think, the way the Irish have been playing,” Read said at the captain’s run.
“So we’ve prepared as well as we can physically, the guys have prepared really well, and are just looking forward to it.
“The Irish are undoubtedly the best side up here (in the northern hemisphere) at the moment, so to challenge ourselves in their conditions is an exciting one for us. We’re in a good space mentally so it’s about being ready physically to get the job done.”
Ireland loves to hog the ball, play phases, and kick for territory when moves stall. Read says his side will have to stay patient in the first matchup with Ireland in two years.
“They are a very structured side, and in terms of how they hold onto the ball they are the best probably in terms of tier-one nations in the world,” Read said. “Also, their ability to defend very strongly as well.
“We’ve got to find our opportunities (to try to win the ball), we can’t be too hungry to look for those opportunities, discipline’s going to be crucial. And when we get those chances to get the ball back we do that.”
Meanwhile, Josh van der Flier will start at openside flanker for Ireland after Dan Leavy failed a fitness test.
Coach Joe Schmidt gave Leavy as long as possible to recover from “full-body soreness” from the 28-17 win against Argentina last weekend. But Leavy, who was substituted into the match after Sean O’Brien broke his right arm, wasn’t ready because of “general tightness,” the Irish Rugby Union said on Friday.
Van der Flier started against Italy in Chicago two weeks ago. Jordi Murphy has come into the reserves.
Ireland is understood to have undergone physical training session on Tuesday, in a bid to steel itself for the All Blacks.
There is no suggestion Tuesday’s session contributed to Leavy’s injury, but skipper Rory Best admitted the only way to prepare to face New Zealand was to “gear up” physically.
“New Zealand are renowned for the style of rugby they play, and one to 15 they can all play and put people into space and through holes. But probably the area of their game that doesn’t get as much credit is their physicality. They are incredibly physical in the tackle area, and the carry, and at the breakdown.
“So you know that if you don’t match that, with the talent they’ve got across the pitch, that it’s going to be tough. So you’ve got to gear up for that.”