Wednesday 7 December 2016

Chicago defeat may be a blessing in disguise - Crotty

Tom Rooney

Published 15/11/2016 | 02:30

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen, right, with Ryan Crotty during their team captain's run at Soldier Field in Chicago. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen, right, with Ryan Crotty during their team captain's run at Soldier Field in Chicago. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Just as Ryan Crotty may be about to reveal that Ireland are in line for the mother of all backlashes at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, he is ushered away by a member of the All Blacks' entourage.

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In truth, if the all too brief interactions to that point with Crotty and New Zealand full-back Ben Smith were anything to go by, the man who broke Irish hearts three years ago was not about to unload any declarations of war.

Lauded the world over for their mastery of rugby's basics, modern All Blacks are equally skilful at answering questions in the most innocuous way possible.

Crotty is injured for Saturday's rematch due to the hamstring strain he picked up at Soldier Field but claimed that he was not overly distraught to be a member of the first All Blacks team to be beaten by an Irish side.

Read more: 'It's a different All Blacks team coming to Dublin' - Sean Cronin's words of warning

What matters most, he said, is that the back-to-back world champions learn from their first loss in 18 games.

"It was a proud moment for a lot of Irish people and the Irish team. Being on the first team to lose? It's disappointing but it was going to happen eventually.

"There were a couple of learnings from that last 10 minutes that we can take forward to this game, so I guess it's a blessing in disguise. It's important that you learn from the loss because if you don't, that's pretty disappointing."

Smith, who will certainly come back into the starting XV for Saturday after being rested for the thumping of Italy, admitted that the All Blacks were caught off guard by the diversity of Ireland's attack in Chicago.

Like Crotty, Smith said that the squad were working hard to address a number of shortcomings, but made sure to highlight no specifics at the AIG skills challenge event in Castleknock College last night.

"The variety of their game was really accurate, in the way that they used the ball to find space, which was really impressive," he said.

"We've got to give Ireland a lot of credit for the way that they played and performed - they beat us to the punch. The way Ireland played the last time, they put us under a lot of pressure, so we've got to get things right this week.

"We're going to have to prepare really well because it's going to be a really good contest come Saturday."

New Zealand's most recent defeat before losing to Ireland was a 27-19 loss to Australia in the 2015 Rugby Championship, which was avenged the following week by way of a 41-13 drubbing at Eden Park, so it just might be prudent to expect that backlash.

Irish Independent

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