All Blacks eye clean sweep

2012-06-22 10:40
Richie McCaw (AFP)

Hamilton - A week of soul-searching has fired up the All Blacks who expect nothing less than victory against an Ireland side living on hope in the third and final Test at Waikato Stadium on Saturday.

Any complacency in the All Blacks following their emphatic 42-10 win in the first match was knocked out when they were tested to the final minute last week, saved only by a Dan Carter drop goal with seconds left on the clock.

"There's been a bit of an edge," was how captain Richie McCaw understated the intensity of training as they rounded off preparations on Friday.

"How tight it got on the weekend certainly put everyone's feet firmly on the ground."

Although the All Blacks wrapped up the series with the narrow 22-19 win, still at stake is preserving their undefeated record against Ireland dating back to 1905.

However, there is an unproven look to the side for the third Test with heavyweights Carter and Kieran Read out through injury and six changes to the starting line up.

Ireland see Carter's understudy Aaron Cruden as a target, aiming to disrupt the 23-year-old who is getting only his third start in 11 Test appearances as playmaker.

Cruden stepped up last year when Carter and his then back-up Colin Slade were injured in the Rugby World Cup and steered the All Blacks to a 20-6 victory over the Wallabies in the semi-finals.

But Ireland backs coach Les Kiss has tweaked his side's successful rushed defence tactic in a plan to shut down the fly-half.

"I think if we can do the right things in terms of the space that we give him - and if we want to give him more space or less space depending on how we want to approach it - I think that's the key," he said.

Long-serving Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, who has faced the All Blacks 13 times, believes they can again rattle the world champions and there is a chance to finally unlock the secret to success.

"Hopefully we can change the result slightly from last weekend," he said.

"Hopefully you try and get this monkey off our backs that has been hanging around for 107 years."

Ireland have made one injury-forced change to their pack - which out-muscled the All Blacks a week ago - with Peter O'Mahony replacing backrower Jamie Heaslip.

The All Blacks have rearranged their eight with debutant Luke Romano coming in at lock, while McCaw moves to number eight leaving newcomer Sam Cane and long-time fringe All Black Liam Messam on the flanks.

In the Ireland backs, Keith Earls returns from injury on the left wing and Paddy Wallace has been rushed into the midfield.

Wallace only arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday night, giving the player listed at 81 kilos (178 pounds) just four days to get over jetlag and prepare to mark the 108-kilo Sonny Bill Williams.

In addition to starting Cruden at flyhalf, the All Blacks have changed both wings, bringing in Ben Smith and Hosea Gear who will be starting for the first time in the series.

Despite the changes, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said he was confident his side will maintain their unbeaten record against Ireland.

"It's expected for us to win every game from our fans and ourselves and we wouldn't want to change that expectation," he said.

Read more on:    richie mccaw  |  rugby

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