New Zealand name strong team from embarrassment of riches for Ireland | Sport

The last time New Zealand failed to score a try was against Ireland in Dublin last November, but only two of the backs who started that day will line up in the same positions when the two sides meet in Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final here.

The New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen, who like his opposite number Joe Schmidt is standing down after the tournament – meaning one of them is preparing for his final game in charge – has picked a relatively inexperienced back division with five players having little more than half the caps of the All Blacks’ captain Kieran Read between them.

The scrum-half Aaron Smith and the centre Jack Goodhue are the only starting backs who survive from Dublin while Beauden Barrett, who started at full-back that evening before switching to full-back when Richie Mo’unga came off the bench in the second-half, will wear the 15 jersey.

“We were in the good position of having all 31 players to consider,” said Hansen. “It was a case of having more players good enough to start than leave out. The likes of Ryan Crotty and Ben Smith are not in the 23, but that does not mean it will be the case in the next game, if we get to that stage.

“I am really comfortable with the group we have gone with. I am not thinking that it may be my last match with the All Blacks. That is not important and it is something to reflect on only when our tournament is over. All I am focused on is an important international against a good side.”

Hansen has picked Brodie Retallick even though the second row has only had 30 minutes of rugby this tournament. “He will go for as long as we want him to,” said the coach. “He has a big motor and there are no question marks about his fitness. And we have Scott Barrett on the bench, a very good player.”

Ireland have never won a World Cup quarter-final while New Zealand’s last defeat in the tournament was at this stage 12 years ago when they were beaten by the then-hosts France in Cardiff.

“Ireland are probably feeling it is their turn to win one,” said Hansen. “That does not guarantee they will. I bumped into Andy Farrell [Ireland’s defence coach] on Wednesday and we talked about the fact that one of us will be going home after the match.

“It is the cold reality at this stage of a World Cup. Ireland know what it is like to go home at this stage, as I do, and they will be doing their darnedest to ensure it does not happen again. So will we. I just hope that it is an exciting game of rugby that is not affected by cards and that at the end of it no one has any excuses, taking defeat on the chin.”

The match will be refereed by Welshman Nigel Owens, the most experienced official in the tournament. “We will have to watch out for his sense of humour because he is pretty good with one-liners,” said Hansen. “He has his idiosyncrasies, but we know him, as do Ireland. What I like about him is that over the years he has shown himself to be good under pressure. I would not want anyone else.”

New Zealand were stifled by Ireland’s rush defence in Dublin, but they have picked a team to run here with George Bridge and Sevu Reece on the wings, Goodhue and Anton Leinert-Brown in the midfield, prompted by the attacking axis of Mo’unga and Barrett.

“We may not be the most experienced backline, but I would not say we are raw when you look at what we have achieved in Super Rugby,” said Bridge. “We have come through some pretty big games together and we just want to go out there and perform. We know Ireland like to kick a lot but we are confident of winning the aerial battle.”

Like Hansen, it could be Read’s final match for the All Blacks as he is moving to Japan at the end of the tournament. “That’s not on my mind,” Read said. “I am just really excited to be playing in a World Cup knock-out again. We have a lot of respect for Ireland and we have to make sure we have learned the lessons from our two defeats to them in the last few years.”

New Zealand: 15-Beauden Barrett, 14-Sevu Reece, 13-Jack Goodhue, 12-Anton Lienert-Brown, 11-George Bridge, 10-Richie Mo’unga, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read (captain), 7-Sam Cane, 6-Ardie Savea, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Nepo Laulala, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-Joe Moody. Replacements: 16-Dane Coles, 17-Ofa Tuungafasi, 18-Angus Ta’avao, 19-Scott Barrett, 20-Matt Todd, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Sonny Bill Williams, 23-Jordie Barrett.

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