All Blacks revved up for Ireland clash
Skipper Richie McCaw is feeling the excitement levels rise on the eve of the All Blacks’ first outing since they claimed the Rugby World Cup in Auckland last October.
New Zealand return on Saturday night to the scene of their cup final victory over France, with Ireland their opponents at Eden Park in the first match of a three-Test series.
McCaw, who will be making an All Blacks record-extending 104th Test appearance, says the fixture has taken a long time to come around.
“I think we’re in a pretty good space and personally I’m just excited to get out there,” he said on Friday.
“I think everybody else is the same so we’ve just got to enjoy that.”
Being the opening Test of the season, McCaw cautioned against expecting a perfect performance.
“We have to expect there’s going to be some mistakes,” he said.
“It’s how you react to those sorts of things that’s the key and I think we’ve had a pretty good training week.”
McCaw will lead a side containing three debutants in winger Julian Savea, halfback Aaron Smith and lock Brodie Retallick.
The Test will also be Steve Hansen’s first as All Blacks head coach after eight years as one of Sir Graham Henry’s assistants.
McCaw said Hansen and his coaching team had brought slightly different ideas with them, but many of the structures were similar to those that had been tried and refined for several years.
McCaw hadn’t had a close look at the Irish line-up, which also contains three newcomers in winger Simon Zebo, prop Declan Fitzpatrick and reserve prop Ronan Loughney.
But he noted there was still plenty of experience there.
While Ireland are missing players to injury, such as 85-Test lock Paul O’Connell, their side contains the likes of skipper Brian O’Driscoll (117 caps) and reserve five-eighth Ronan O’Gara (121 caps).
“It’s always a tricky old Test and physical,” McCaw said of playing Ireland, “and I’m sure tomorrow will be the same”.© AAP 2013