Monday 11 December 2017

Ireland must exploit 'small chinks' in the All Blacks armour – Heaslip

Jamie Heaslip insists New Zealand are not ‘untouchable’
Jamie Heaslip insists New Zealand are not ‘untouchable’
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

JAMIE HEASLIP believes that Ireland can find weaknesses in the All Blacks' apparently indestructible armour.

When Ireland take on the world's best team on Sunday, No 8 Heaslip faces a personal battle with an opposite number who has indisputably been the world's best player this season in Kieran Read.

Ireland have famously never beaten New Zealand and lost 60-0 in their last meeting. Steve Hansen's world champions have gone through 2013 with a 100pc record thus far and stand on the cusp of history on Sunday as they look to complete a calendar year with a perfect record.

England and France gave everything in recent weeks and still lost to the tourists. The bookies are offering a 20-point spread this weekend, but vice-captain Heaslip maintains that even the best teams can be got at and said Ireland must believe that they can put the Blacks on the back foot.

"They are not untouchable," he said. "They are like any other top side: they are very smart, they are very accurate and they have very good players as well. It's a really good mix.

"But, like every other team, there are a lot of strengths, but there are a couple of chinks as well.

"We have to come up with a game plan to exploit those small chinks, however small they might be against a team like the All Blacks, and have that belief to carry it out and be really, really accurate in our actions to execute it, hopefully put them on the back foot when we have the ball and have belief and control when we don't have the ball."

New Zealand have created an aura around themselves that starts with the Haka and ends with their exhilarating brand of rugby.

But Heaslip believes that Ireland's players won't buy into the brand and can see beyond the black jersey.

"At this level, I really don't think from a professional player's point of view there would be much mystery as such about them," he said.

"The shroud that surrounds the All Blacks (is because) they have created a very good team, culture, following and they are held in such high regard in rugby and in New Zealand, but all the players that are here, guys who maybe haven't played against them before as well, have all played big games at this stage, in finals, semi-finals, big Heineken Cup games.

"It's another challenge; yes, it's a big challenge but there is no mystery about it."

Possibly their most dangerous player will be facing down Heaslip on Sunday.

"Kieran's pretty much a full package," he said of Read. "He has got great distribution skills. He has got great carrying skills. He is a serious athlete. He has got all the attributes.

"He has been playing some fantastic rugby over the last year and a half, two years, even longer. He sets very high standards for himself.

"He is an incredible player. In my book, I would put him and Sergio (Parisse) as the best No 8s out there and he is showing some incredible form right now.

"We were talking to the Aussies last week at the dinner and they were just like, 'just mark Kieran Read'. That is how much of an influence he can have.

"He is a big challenge for whoever is in front of him at that time on the field. You've got to respect that. Like any other good players, you can't just focus in on Kieran or Richie (McCaw) or whoever it is.

"You've got to give them the respect they deserve and they do deserve that respect. But, you've got to focus on the big picture as well.

"It is a dangerous, dangerous thing if you start focusing in on one player on any team that you go against."

Irish Independent

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