Irish arrive in NZ with high hopes - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Irish arrive in NZ with high hopes

By Harris Choy 01/06/2008 07:24:04 PM Comments (0)

The touring Irish rugby team arrived in Wellington injury-free, in high spirits and with the intention of making a bold statement in Saturday's Test against the All Blacks.

They were further bolstered with the news that captain Brian O'Driscoll will join the side in the next 48 hours along with Geordan Murphy and Eoin Reddan to enable stand-in coach Michael Bradley to select his Test side from a full squad.

O'Driscoll's availability had been in doubt after he withdrew from the Irish side that beat the Barbarians 39-14 last week following the death of a close friend.

But he confirmed to team officials that he was on the way to join the side.

Murphy (Leicester) and Redden (Wasps) were involved in Saturday's English club premiership won by Wasps 26-16.

"They will be at Tuesday's training session or Thursday's," Bradley told NZPA.

"Brian was with us right up until the Baa-Baas match and Geordan and Eion were involved in the Six Nations (when) the systems were in place. They're smart rugby players and they'll do their homework for our match on Saturday, so it's not really an issue for us."

The Irish quietly consider Saturday's test to be best chance of beating the All Blacks for the first time.

Denied of experience following several defections to overseas clubs since last year's World Cup and the retirement of flanker Jerry Collins and the injection of six newcomers to the squad, the All Blacks are in a rebuilding phase.

"I suppose there is a changing of the guards ... but I have never ever, ever seen a bad All Blacks side," Bradley said.

Also in Ireland's favour is the fact that the Test will played under the existing laws, not the experimental ones used in the Super 14 over the past four months.

Bradley said while the game had sped up under the experimental laws and the ball is in play more, it would be interesting to see which team had more advantage.

A large contingent in the Irish side is from Heineken Cup champions Munster.

Munster's coach Declan Kidney, the new head Irish coach, will take over the team on their return from the one-off Tests in New Zealand and Australia.

Ireland squad

Backs: Tommy Bowe, Isaac Boss, Ian Dowling, Girvan Dempsey, Gavin Duffy, Luke Fitzgerald, Shane Horgan, Robert Kearney, Geordan Murphy, Brian O'Driscoll (Captain), Ronan O'Gara, Eoin Reddan, Peter Stringer, Paddy Wallace.

Forwards: Rory Best, Tony Buckley, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Jamie Heaslip, Marcus Horan, Bernard Jackman, Shane Jennings, Denis Leamy, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell, Mick O'Driscoll, Malcolm O'Kelly, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Bryan Young.

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