NZ Maori v Ireland, Rotorua, June 18
Ireland set for Maori 'Test'
June 17, 2010
Maori skipper Liam Messam leads the Haka against the Barbarians © Getty Images
The New Zealand Maori continue their centenary season in Rotorua on Friday, taking on a desperate Ireland side still licking their wounds after a hammering from the All Blacks.
The tourists will hope for no more moments of madness following Jamie Heaslip's early sending off in last weekend's Test match as they look to salvage some positives from the New Zealand leg of their tour.
The Maori will be a more cohesive unit than the one which scraped to victory over the New Zealand Barbarians in Whangarei and with a great deal of talent at their disposal will hope for a memorable scalp against a strong Irish XV. The Irish camp has described the game as an unofficial 'Test' in the build-up, as it has been many times in the past.
Veteran Leicester fullback Geordan Murphy leads the tourists for the first time, having watched from the stands in 2005 as the Maori inflicted defeat on the British & Irish Lions. His side boasts four uncapped players, including Ireland U20 skipper Rhys Ruddock, but has an experienced spine.
Jonathan Sexton and Eoin Reddan are team-mates at Leinster and start at halfback, while Shane Horgan also toured with the Lions in 2005. The back-row, where Ruddock starts at blindside, will be keenly contested. With Heaslip banned for five weeks and Connacht's John Muldoon out with injury there are places up for grabs in the final tour game, a Test against Australia in Brisbane. Ulster's Chris Henry is another uncapped player, at No.8, with Munster's Niall Ronan in at openside.
The Irish trio will face a tough battle against Maori skipper Liam Messam and All Black openside Tanerau Latimer while Colin Bourke starts at the base of the scrum after a strong season with the Chiefs.
One area where the Maori will hope to improve is up front, where Ben Afeaki, Corey Flynn and Bronson Murray pack down. They possess a backline brimming with talent and will need to provide clean ball if they are to prosper. Canterbury pivot Stephen Brett will direct proceedings, with the experience of Luke McAlister at 12 and the pace and power of Chiefs utility Dwayne Sweeney at outside-centre. On the wings there is raw pace and invention in Wellington's Hosea Gear and Canterbury's Sean Maitland.
Ireland coach Declan Kidney is expecting any Maori worries to have been tidied up after a further week in camp and last weekend's hit-out, which he believes contributed to their scrum problems due to familiar faces in the opposition.
"A lot of those things will have been tidied off," he said. "One match is worth five or six training sessions. They would have taken a look at the video so I'm sure they will seal off anything they thought they were vulnerable with. When you have guys who play with one another during the season playing against one another, there's always going to be a bit more front-row chat than there usually is."
NZ Maori: R Robinson (Southland); S Maitland (Canterbury), D Sweeney (Waikato), L McAlister (North Harbour), H Gear (Wellington); S Brett (Canterbury), A Smith (Manawatu); B Murray (Northland), C Flynn (Canterbury), B Afeaki (North Harbour), H Triggs (Otago), J Hoeata (Taranaki), L Messam (Waikato, capt), T Latimer (Bay of Plenty), C Bourke (Bay of Plenty)
Replacements: Dane Coles (Wellington) Clint Newland (Hawke's Bay) Romana Graham (Waikato) Karl Lowe (Hawke's Bay) Ruki Tipuna (Wellington) Willie Ripia (Taranaki) Jackson Willison (Waikato)
Ireland: G Murphy (Leicester, capt); S Horgan (Leinster), G Duffy (Connacht), P Wallace (Ulster), J Murphy (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), E Reddan (Leinster); M Horan (Munster), J Fogarty (Leinster), T Court (Ulster), E O'Donoghue (Ulster), D Tuohy (Ulster), R Ruddock (Leinster), N Ronan (Munster), C Henry (Ulster)
Replacements: S Cronin (Connacht), J Hayes (Munster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), D Wallace(Munster), P Stringer (Munster), R O'Gara (Munster), R Kearney (Leinster)
Referee: Mark Lawrence (RSA)