Preview: Ireland v New Zealand

The world’s top-two ranked sides meet in a clash of the titans on Saturday as Ireland welcome New Zealand to the Aviva Stadium.

The world’s top-two ranked sides meet in a clash of the titans on Saturday as Ireland welcome New Zealand to the Aviva Stadium.

The reigning Six Nations and Grand Slam champions will look to continue their four-match winning run, which includes consecutive triumphs over Australia during their summer tour down under, and build on what was a hard-earned 28-17 victory over Argentina last weekend.

Joe Schmidt’s side grabbed their first win over the All Blacks just a shade over two years ago, beating the World Champions 40-29 at Chicago’s Soldier Field, in what has become a hard-fought match-up over the side’s last three Tests.

Bolstering the ranks for Schmidt’s side is experienced full-back Rob Kearney, who returns to the starting line-up in place of Jordan Larmour.

Gary Ringrose comes in at centre, with Josh van der Flier replacing Dan Leavy, who pulled out of the squad through injury, while Devin Toner gets the nod at second row.

The All Blacks have made just one change to the side that came from behind to beat England 16-15 at Twickenham last weekend, with Ryan Crotty coming in at centre for Sonny Bill Williams, who is out injured.

Ireland v New Zealand, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Saturday 17 November, 19:00

What they said:

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt said: “There were some tough decisions. There’s some very good players who we feel we’ve left out. There’s some players who played well in the first two games and unfortunately don’t get an opportunity, but you can only name 23 players.

“We know that they’ll come after us in some areas because they did last time. They came at us off kick-off, they certainly, based on what they did to England last week, will come after our lineout, and they go after most scrums, but that’s been an area of strength for us, so we’ll keep trying to make sure that that stays rock solid for us. Apart from that, when the game’s up and running it’s likely to be fairly manic.”

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen said: “You’ve got to admire what they’re doing. They hang on to the ball for long periods of time, they’re probably the team in World Rugby that hang on to the ball the most.

“When they don’t get what they want with that they’ll take to the air and they’ve got a good kicking game. You’ve got to admire all of that, it’s winning, and they’ll punish you.

“They’ll find a weakness. He’s pretty good, Joe, at finding a trick or two, so we’ll be expecting one or two coming our way on Saturday.”

Key battle – the packs

Schmidt himself admitted that New Zealand will look to maximise their opportunities at set-pieces but remains confident that the scrum is an area of expertise for the Irish.

That sets up an intriguing battle, perhaps indicating that this one could be won in a war of attrition.

With Toner and van der Flier coming in afresh, both will have to be on top of their game from the off to prevent the All Blacks from taking hold of the match.

Key stats

– Over the last three Tests between these sides, Ireland have scored 71 points cumulatively, while New Zealand have 74.

– Ireland have never beaten the All Blacks on home turf, their sole victory over their opponents coming with a 40-29 win in Chicago back in 2016.

– New Zealand have lost only one of their 11 matches so far this year: a 36-34 defeat to South Africa in the Rugby Championship.

Ireland:  15. Rob Kearney, 14. Keith Earls, 13. Garry Ringrose, 12. Bundee Aki, 11. Jacob Stockdale, 10. Jonathan Sexton, 9. Kieran Marmion, 1. Cian Healy, 2. Rory Best (c), 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Devin Toner, 5. James Ryan, 6. Peter O’Mahony, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. CJ Stander. Replacements: Replacements: 16. Sean Cronin, 17. Jack McGrath, 18. Andrew Porter, 19. Iain Henderson, 20. Jordi Murphy, 21. Luke McGrath, 22. Joey Carbery, 23. Jordan Larmour.

New Zealand: 15. Damian McKenzie, 14. Ben Smith, 13. Jack Goodhue, 12. Ryan Crotty, 11. Rieko Ioane, 10. Beauden Barrett, 9. Aaron Smith, 1. Karl Tu’inukuafe, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Sam Whitelock, 5. Brodie Retallick, 6. Liam Squire, 7. Ardie Savea, 8. Kieran Read (c) Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ofa Tuungafasi, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown