Saturday 24 June 2017

Bleyendaal wary of wounded Maoris in Thomond

Bleyendaal: Expecting backlash. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Bleyendaal: Expecting backlash. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

Tyler Bleyendaal expects that the Maori All Blacks will have spoken about gaining revenge for Ireland's stunning win over New Zealand when they face Munster on Friday .

Bleyendaal was born in Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island, and the in-form Munster kicker said there has been a reaction to the Chicago defeat back home.

He knows the New Zealand public and players will expect to see an improvement when the sides meet in Dublin on Saturday week.

The ex-Crusaders man thinks that a number of injuries means the Maoris players could force their way into Steve Hansen's All Black squad and that they will be keen to leave their mark at a sold-out Thomond Park.

"I'd say the (Maori players) would have mentioned it for sure. They know there is a history with Munster, with the All Blacks playing in Thomond Park. They know they are here for a battle and that we will be up for it. They are here to win, not for a holiday," said Bleyendaal.

"It may be mentioned but it won't be the focus of their preparations.

"I'm sure there is a bit of reaction (at home) - probably more joy for the Irish. Everyone respects the way the All Blacks play, and if we get beaten they know the other team has put in a good effort. The Irish did that on the weekend.

"We're disappointed as a county to get beaten but we had a great run of it. To see what it meant to the Irish on the weekend in Chicago, I think everyone will have a bit of joy with them.

"Potentially we might see a different New Zealand in two weeks. But Ireland have now set a new benchmark, they made that statement after the game.

"There is probably a lot more expected of them now they've got that win, it was 111 years or something and now they have the chance to back that up two games in a row. The All Blacks will definitely be looking for improvements."

If selected to start on Friday, Bleyendaal is likely to come up against his former Christchurch Boys High School team-mate, Ash Dickson, who captains the Maori side.

A year separated the duo in school, but Bleyendaal is excited about facing his old pal at Thomond Park.

"I went to school with Ash Dickson, he was a year older than me, but we played cricket and rugby together," he said. "He was a very talented cricketer as well.

"And he a very skilful hooker, as a lot from New Zealand are. He gets involved. He's a good leader and as captain he gets to lead from the front.

"It's a big game for both sides this week. There has been a few injuries in the All Blacks squad and the Maori team is almost a feeder team now for the All Blacks.

"There were guys that came down from the All Blacks squad to play for the Maoris last weekend and they see it very much as one squad.

"They are performing trying to go up another level to that full All Blacks squad and to try and make an impact on the tour.

"They are here to perform. They have high expectations and they play a pretty exciting brand of rugby which complements the players they have.

"They will be looking to put the pressure on us and score a lot of points."

Irish Independent

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