x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

With Dan Carter out Ireland's attack will focus on young Aaron Cruden

With Dan Carter out for the All Blacks, Ireland plan to attack his replacement, Aaron Cruden as they close their series against New Zealand.

Donnacha Ryan, left, walks over to console Brian O'Driscoll, the Ireland captain, after their 22-19 loss to New Zealand on June 16 at Christchurch.
Donnacha Ryan, left, walks over to console Brian O'Driscoll, the Ireland captain, after their 22-19 loss to New Zealand on June 16 at Christchurch.

Ireland will target the fledgling All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden on Saturday as they aim to end their tour of New Zealand on a high with their first win against the All Blacks.

Brian O'Driscoll, the Ireland captain, declared "the period of mourning is over" after Ireland's heart-breaking 22-19 loss in last week's second Test, sealed by a last-minute Dan Carter drop goal.

With Carter sidelined by a hamstring injury, Ireland will throw everything at the replacement pivot Cruden, who is full of attacking flair but has lingering questions over his defensive qualities.

It will be only the third start in 11 Tests for Cruden, 23, who was also called up to replace an injured Carter in the World Cup last year.

"I think if we can do the right things in terms of the space that we give him, and if we want to give him more space or less space depending on how we want to approach it, I think that's the key," said Les Kiss, the Ireland backs coach.

The Test is Ireland's last chance on this tour to end their 107-year winless streak against the All Blacks, although they went desperately close last week in a terrific response from their 42-10 defeat in the first Test.

O'Driscoll led a rushed defence that bottled up New Zealand's attacking outside backs, and Kiss indicated that the strategy has been further adapted to take into account Cruden.

The team analysts have produced a profile of Cruden showing how he works with his Waikato Chiefs teammates Sonny Bill Williams, Liam Messam and Sam Cane, who will also be with him in the All Blacks.

"It's important to understand what his strengths are and areas that might challenge him a little bit, and we've gone through some footage for sure," Kiss said.

"I know the Chiefs, on a five-man defence, they put him out wide, second-to-last defender.

"But they didn't do that [in the World Cup]. He stayed in the near channel so I think they'll probably stick to what the All Blacks do and keep him in the close channel because they'll back him in defence."

Elsewhere, having already secured a series win against England, South Africa are not about to drop their guard in the third and final Test, the captain Jean de Villiers said Friday.

"South Africa has been through some dark days when we struggled to get a win," he said.

"We need to cherish the moments when we win and not take them for granted.

"It's tough to win at Test match level and if you can do it three times against the same team, a special achievement."

South Africa won the opening Test 22-17, thanks to a dominant second-half performance in Durban, before snuffing an England comeback to win the second 36-27 in Johannesburg.

The England assistant coach Mike Catt said that he felt the tourists were not far away from being able to pull off a victory in South Africa, a feat they have not achieved since 2000.

"If you look at the past two Tests, we've had 20-minute spells where we have let ourselves down or the opposition have really got on top of us," Catt said.

"We need to make sure that those 20-minute blocks don't happen in the game. The players have had to learn very quickly in an unforgiving environment.

"When the big green machine gets rolling it is very hard to stop. We need to make sure that we don't put ourselves in those situations again."

Robbie Deans, the Australia coach, said Welsh determination to make a statement by securing at least one victory on their tour makes Saturday's final match of the three-game series anything but a dead rubber.

Australia have already won the series courtesy of a 27-19 win in Brisbane and a last-gasp 25-23 victory in Melbourne last week in two games of the highest quality between two of international rugby's younger sides.

Although the past four Tests between the sides, going back to last year's World Cup, have been decided by a cumulative 19 points, the Six Nations champions Wales have not beaten the Wallabies in Australia since 1969.

"This will be a gem of a game in every way," Deans said.

"It will have elements of a lot of physicality in it because you have one side wanting to make a statement before they leave. They know they are on vacation, so they are going to spare nothing, they're going to leave nothing in the tank, they are going to look to empty the tank and walk away with their heads held high."


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