Ireland v New Zealand, Aviva Stadium, November 20
All Blacks cast dark cloud over Ireland
ESPNscrum Staff
November 18, 2010
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw looks for support, New Zealand training, Castleknock Hotel, Dublin, Ireland, November 16, 2010
New Zealand captain Richie McCaw will notch another All Blacks record against Ireland on Saturday © Getty Images

New Zealand's latest quest for a Grand Slam tour resumes in Dublin on Saturday with Ireland their hosts at Lansdowne Road.

The All Blacks added Scotland's scalp to that of England with a rampant display at Murrayfield last time out with the Irish and Wales now standing between them and their latest clean sweep through the UK and Ireland.

Ireland returned to winning ways against Samoa last weekend to bring an end to a four-Test losing streak but the unconvincing nature of their victory did little to raise hopes of a first-ever victory over their Kiwi rivals.

The game will be an extra-special one for All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw and fullback Mils Muliaina, with the duo set to become New Zealand's most-capped internationals, and on present form the hosts have it all to do to prevent them from celebrating that achievement with yet another win.

Ireland - Player to Watch: No.8 Jamie Heaslip made few friends with an ill-advised knee into Richie McCaw's back last time these sides met and will no doubt be keen to restore his reputation among Kiwi rugby fans with a reminder of what he can do - within the laws of the game.

Ireland - Team News: Ireland coach Declan Kidney has made 11 changes to his side with the introduction of fullback Rob Kearney, fly-half Jonathan Sexton and scrum-half Eoin Reddan headlining the re-vamp. Luke Fitzgerald switches to the wing while Gordon D'Arcy is back in the No.12 shirt. In the pack, Cian Healy starts at loose-head and Tom Court shifts across the scrum to the No.3 jersey. Mick O'Driscoll and Donncha O'Callaghan form an all-Munster second-row while Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris returns to the back-row.

New Zealand - Player to Watch: Ma'a Nonu was forced to watch from the sidelines as Sonny Bill Williams offered the latest example of his class against the Scots last weekend - the bar has been raised and he has to step up.

New Zealand - Team News: Nonu and Conrad Smith have been reunited in the All Blacks' midfield with Williams dropping to the bench. Elsewhere in the backline, Cory Jane returns from injury to replace Isaia Toeava on the right wing. Scrum-half Andy Ellis earns a rare start while in the pack Jerome Kaino predictably returns to the blindside flank for Liam Messam. Lock Tom Donnelly is in the match-day squad for the first time since Hong Kong, taking the place of Sam Whitelock. Brad Thorn has been ruled out with a hamstring problem, meaning that Anthony Boric starts in the engine room.

Key Battle: The All Blacks had it all too easy at the breakdown at Murrayfield but are unlikely to have things all their own way against the Irish. The battle of the No.8s - Heaslip and Kieran Read - is one to watch but which of these strong-running ball carriers will see most of the pill?

Trivia: All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw made his international debut against Ireland in Dublin back in 2001 - a game that resulted in 40-29 victory for the tourists.

Stats: New Zealand head coach Graham Henry has presided over 99 Test wins - 76 with the All Blacks (2004-present), 22 with Wales (1998-2002) and one with the British & Irish Lions (2001).

Quote Unquote:

"We have a few results in the last few months that haven't gone our way. We just need to beat somebody like New Zealand to show the world we are capable of mixing it with the best." Ireland's Stephen Ferris remains positive

"I don't get carried away and I definitely don't carry grudges." - All Blacks captain Richie McCaw insists the past is the past.

Prediction: The Sonny Bill Williams experiment may have been put on the back burner but this All Blacks side remain a devastating proposition even without the rising star of New Zealand rugby. It is a special fixture for McCaw and Muliaina and we can expect their team-mates to honour their achievement with another powerful display. History and form are stacked against the hosts who may be grateful if fans opt to stay away this week.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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