Ireland: Pressure will be on from the kickoff

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 15:12 22/06/2012
Aaron Cruden
IAIN MCGREGOR/The Press
AARON CRUDEN: Can he recreate Dan Carter's pinpoint kickoffs?

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Ireland expect some changes to the All Blacks' testing kickoffs in the third test at Waikato Stadium tomorrow night.

The Irish had their hands full coping with Dan Carter's low trajectory restarts that No8 Kieran Read contested to great effect in the first two tests.

"Collecting restarts and chasing restarts is a huge part of the game now and a tester will be the differences this week," Irish right winger Fergus McFadden said today.

"In the first test I do think them getting a stranglehold on the game was largely down to the fact they dominated us there.

"I think we were better last week but we do need to be better again."

In a game of small margins the advantage to be gained from either gaining possession directly off the kickoff or by forcing knock-ons or penalties was huge in terms of being able to "put your foot on a team's neck after getting a score".

"After the first test we didn't over-emphasise it because we emphasised it quite heavily before the first test," McFadden said.

"We just kind of looked at it and looked at what positions we thought different players could go into to cover that kick because obviously that flat kick that Carter was kicking to the right was on the money every time and with Read jumping you really need to get up early and contest.

"It was really becoming a bit of a dogfight for the ball."

McFadden expected All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw to pick up from Read in the role of chasing the kicks.

But whether first-five Aaron Cruden is able to come up with his own version of the flat kickoff, going to the opposite side of the field, or other variations remains to be seen.

Either way, said McFadden, the Irish would be ready.

The Irish are backing their defence to again play a major role tomorrow night in Hamilton after holding the All Blacks to just one try in the second test in Christchurch.

McFadden, a transplanted centre, said he would have preferred to have got his hands on the ball a lot more at AMI Stadium but the wet, cold conditions had not helped and with more rain forecast for Hamilton tomorrow he was expecting more of the same.

Ireland's defensive coach Les Kiss said he expected some slight variations from the All Blacks on attack this week just by virtue of the number of personnel changes to the team, particularly with Cruden expected to "pull the strings" a little differently to Carter.

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"It does enhance some parts of their game when you think he works with Sonny Bill [Williams] on a week-in, week-out basis at the Chiefs and he's got two of the back row that he works with there on a weekly basis as well.

"So there's some familiarity there for him and by virtue of that I think there will be some shifts in how they do play the game.

"But in these tight test windows ... you don't get a chance to experiment a lot and with short preparation times you've just got to make sure you do the basics right.

"The other night we were just better on our basics to tell you the truth. That put us in front of them a bit better and gave us a chance to be more physical," Kiss said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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