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Asked about that call, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said that the youngest Barrett brother’s capacity to kick goals from long range might just come in handy in the Tokyo Stadium.
It was the clearest indication yet that New Zealand are reading little into Ireland’s 2019 dip in form and are preparing for a tight match against a team who have caused them more problems than most recently.
Hansen was not messing around with his team selection, picking Brodie Retallick back into the mix despite his lack of recent game-time, while jettisoning Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty altogether.
Both coaches showed their hands yesterday, with Joe Schmidt opting for a team he has steadily built across a four-year cycle of consistent selection and established combinations.
His opposite number has taken a different approach, picking young men in form ahead of senior leadership figures.
If Schmidt was in charge of the All Blacks, Crotty and Smith would probably be in the team. Dane Coles would likely be starting too.
The clash in the coaching booths is a contrast in styles as both men go into a match they know will be their last in their current roles if they lose.
The stakes could hardly be bigger for both men and, now that they’ve shown their hand, they are on a watching brief ahead of tomorrow’s kick-off. Schmidt believes his combinations will be a decisive factor.
“The unfortunate thing about any 23 that comes up against the All Blacks is that they can play very well and still not get the result. That’s the quality that the All Blacks have, the athletes that they possess,” he said.
“But one of the things is that they (the Irish players) have connected up very well, that they have had some pretty successful experiences together. There’s a number of players within that side that have contributed to a fair bit of history for us.
“The first win over the All Blacks, the first time we won at home to the All Blacks, but a few other milestones along the way. A lot of those players that are selected were in Australia last summer,
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