New Zealand to complete perfect year by mauling struggling Ireland
After losing 32-15 at home to an Australian side considered to be in transition, Ireland now face the mammoth task of taking on world champions New Zealand at the Aviva stadium, with the match shown live on TV.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has Lions fly-half Jonathan Sexton and mercurial centre Brian O’Driscoll – who will line up against the All Blacks for the last time – available again, with both players passing fitness tests after picking up knocks against the Wallabies.
Gordon D’Arcy returns at inside centre and Lions back Conor Murray – who was left out of the clash with Australia in favour of Eoin Reddan – comes in to add some physicality at scrum-half.
Schmidt will be looking for a reaction from his players against the country of his birth after the last loss and Ireland’s pack should have enough power to compete with their opponents, but New Zealand have much more to gain from this match and will be far too good in the backline for their hosts.
New Zealand -19 points to win @ evens
As England coach Stuart Lancaster put it before his side’s 30-22 defeat against the All Blacks at Twickenham, New Zealand have become the most dominant team in world sport.
A run of 13 wins out of 13 games so far this year follows a 2012 campaign in which they lost just once – in London against Lancaster’s red rose wearers – and that is the only defeat they’ve tasted since before the last World Cup in 2011.
Ireland have never beaten New Zealand and their only victory of note this year was against Wales in the Six Nations, with subsequent defeats registered in clashes with England, Scotland, Italy and Australia.
The All Blacks will win and claim their place in the pantheon of rugby greats and four 20+ points triumphs in their last five Tests against Ireland – which includes a 60-0 mauling last summer – suggests they will do it with quite a bit in hand.
Julian Savea to score the first try @ 6/1
It is tempting to tip number eight Kieran Read to go over first at the Aviva Stadium at meaty 12/1 odds, as the 28-year-old scored his 15th try for the All Blacks against England, equalling fellow Kiwi Zinzan Brooke’s record tally from the spot at the back of the scrum..
However, after another dazzling two-try display at Twickenham it’s very difficult to oppose Savea in this market
The Wellington winger has touched down an incredible 18 times in his 19 appearances for New Zealand and ran in to put the first points on the board a minute into the tight encounter with Lancaster’s men.
With close friend Ma’a Nonu feeding quality lay-offs from centre and Read liable to get in on the assisting act – as he did with such aplomb for the first try in England – Savea can again benefit from his teammates’ perfect ball handling and go over first in Dublin