Our Ireland XV To Take On The All Blacks In Chicago
Joe Schmidt’s Ireland take on New Zealand in Chicago on Saturday week.
The kiwi named his squad yesterday, with six new caps in the side as he looks to be the first man in history to lead an the Irish senior team to victory over the All Blacks. Ireland couldn’t be facing the All Blacks at a worse time with Steven Hansen’s side making it 18 straight test wins in a row with Saturday’s victory over the Wallabies. With that win they now hold the record for most consecutive victories by a ‘tier one’ team, but they are still six short of matching Cyprus for the actual record.
If there was ever a man to lead an Ireland team to victory over New Zealand however, Schmidt is that man. The last time he tried, he came very close, losing out only to a try in the closing seconds by Ryan Crotty. Coming into this tour he has almost a full clean bill of health, something that has eluded him in recent tours, so despite the All Blacks terrifying form, this could be Ireland’s year.
Ireland will get two cracks at the All Blacks this time round, in Chicago on November 5th and then at home in the Aviva on November 19th. That being said, Schmidt can afford to test out a few options in the first game, before the real chance at home on the 19th.
Here’s the side we reckon he should put out for the game at Soldier Field.
1. Cian Healy
The Leinster prop has finally got some good solid game-time under his belt and it’s time to see if he’s still got it. At his peak, one of the most feared looseheads in the world. It’s now or never for Healy to once again rekindle the spark. McGrath can wait until the 2nd test, unless Healy can keep him out.
2. Rory Best (C)
The captain gets the nod at hooker. His insane work ethic and brilliant work at the breakdown will be key against the All Blacks.
3. John Ryan
If Ryan can scrummage like he did for Munster against Glasgow, the All Blacks are in serious trouble. Thomond Park gave him a standing ovation on Saturday for his efforts, the crowd at Soldier Field will do the same if he can repeat them for Ireland.
4. Donnacha Ryan
Showed his form of old on Saturday. Another player who seems to finally have gotten over his injury problems and looks set to return to his very best. A monster when he gets going and with Iain Henderson potentially not 100% fit, a player like him is needed in the engine room.
5. Ultan Dillane
Time to give the young gun a shot at the masters. His pace and strength will be huge against a dynamic All Blacks front five. Time for Ultan Dillane to make his mark on world rugby.
6. Peter O’Mahony
A player of O’Mahony’s ferocity cannot be left out of the first test with the All Blacks. His leadership skills alone make him a must in this pack. Recently returned from injury but already playing like he never missed a beat. Could end up being one the most important player on the pitch on November 5th.
7. Sean O’Brien
Sean O’Brien is literally gasping for some game-time at the moment, judging by his reaction to being substituted on Sunday for Leinster. May not have the gas to last the 80 minutes, but let him out of the blocks against the All Blacks and he’ll give you all he has.
8. CJ Stander
The South African born flanker has been a revelation for Ireland since making his debut in the Six Nations. Jamie Heaslip brings experience and work-ethic but Stander has that x-factor and explosive ball carrying skills that are much needed against a heavily fancied All Blacks team. Stander will be the most motivated man on the pitch and will want a crack at Kieran Read to prove to the world- he’s one of the very best eight’s in world rugby right now.
9. Conor Murray
Murray has had a flying start to the season with Munster, bagging a number of tries and putting in several excellent performances. A key player for Schmidt if Ireland are to finally defeat the All Blacks.
10. Johnny Sexton
Providing Sexton is 100% and ready to go, he’s got to start. Showed some wonderful glimpses of form recently and if he’s at his very best- Ireland stand a real chance.
11. Craig Gilroy
Keith Earls will miss the first test with the All Blacks due to suspension, potentially giving Craig Gilroy a long-awaited chance at proving he’s got what it takes to cause problems on the international scene. Electric pace and a clinical finisher, gets the nod over Zebo for us.
12. Robbie Henshaw
Made his long-awaited return from injury and his debut for Leinster against Munster. If he can play to the best of his abilities on the day, he will cause the All Blacks some serious problems.
13. Garry Ringrose
Time to unleash the kid. Making your debut against the All Blacks may sound daunting and ridiculous but that’s how great players are made. Has the potential to reach the very top. Give his a shot in Chicago and let’s see what he’s really made of.
14. Andrew Trimble
His Ulster compatriot Tommy Bowe has been left out so he can get some game-time with Ulster and return to match fitness. Trimble is only recently back from injury himself, but we all know what he is capable of. If he can show us the kind of form that led him to being named Ireland’s 2014 Player of the Year, he will be a nightmare for the All Blacks defence.
15. Jared Payne
Would love to have seen the dynamic Tieran O’Halloran in here, but the Connacht man didn’t make the squad. Kearney just isn’t cutting it right now and Payne is better at fullback than the Leinster man in almost every department.