x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Irish hopes high of ending All Blacks streak

Ireland are unlikely to have many better chances of claiming the prized scalp of New Zealand than when the two sides meet at Croke Park in Brian O'Driscoll's 50th Test as captain.

Ireland are unlikely to have many better chances of claiming the prized scalp of New Zealand than when the two sides meet today at Croke Park in Brian O'Driscoll's 50th Test as captain. That is the view of the former Australia coach, Eddie Jones, who masterminded the Wallabies' triumph over the All Blacks in the semi-final of the 2003 World Cup. Since last year's World Cup in France, the All Blacks have suffered an exodus of their top stars to the cash-rich leagues of the northern hemisphere.

As a consequence, Jones feels that Richie McCaw's Kiwi side are there for the taking as they begin their European tour, and Ireland who have never beaten then All Blacks in 21 previous games have a decent shot at winning. "They have got the experience to win a Grand Slam but this is the first time they have got weaknesses in their squad," said Jones, who is now in charge of the English side Saracens.

"They have not got the quality they used to have and they could be as susceptible as they have been for some time." Meanwhile, Scotland could feel a backlash from South African winger Bryan Habana in their encounter at Murrayfield this afternoon. Habana, who was named the IRB World Player of the Year last term, was accused of "resting on his laurels" by the ex-Australia winger David Campese this week. Habana was the star of the Springboks' World Cup triumph last year, but has touched down just once in his last eight Test matches.

The Scots will need to improve markedly on their performance in losing to the All Blacks last week if they are to topple the Boks. pradley@thenational.ae