Friday 23 March 2018

Francis Saili can't see Ireland getting elusive All Blacks win

Munster's Francis Saili. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Munster's Francis Saili. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

John Fallon

It hasn't happened in 28 meetings and Munster centre Francis Saili can't see it happening any day soon that his native New Zealand will be turned over by Ireland.

The 25-year-old, the only All Black currently playing in Ireland, said he expects his country's dominance over Ireland to continue when they clash twice later this year.

A 10-10 draw at Lansdowne Road in 1973 remains Ireland's best result against New Zealand and while there have been heartbreaking defeats, not least the last gasp 24-22 loss in November 2013, Saili doesn't think that trend will change.

He said he cannot see the day when Ireland will beat New Zealand because there is a gulf in the skill levels between the sides.

The Auckland native, who joined Munster this season on a two-year deal, said that while Ireland went close in 2013 to a first ever win over the All Blacks, he still sees a gap between the sides.

"There's an opportunity for them to do so in Chicago and Dublin in November. To be honest, I can't see the day coming any time soon. I can't see it in my head.

"You have to be truthful, although 2013 was a very close one. You almost took us then so there is hope. Back home in New Zealand, the skill level is a lot better than it is here. I am just being brutally honest. What is happening back home is way up there ... it is run down from a young age coming through and is consistent throughout the years," Saili said.

Saili, capped twice by New Zealand, said there is a lot of ground to be made up to close the gap between the countries and he believes that the weather is a factor in the divide.

"There are a lot of things but I'm not in a position to say anything about that. The weather is a factor. It is a big factor. Back home, you're playing on nice sunny days, you can throw the ball around and that's the kind of game ... free-flowing, getting offloads away, and you can see that if you're watching the Super 15s," he added.

He has settled in well at Munster, scoring a couple of tries against Ospreys and Treviso during his 18 appearances so far and is looking forward to a big finish to the season, starting on Friday at home to Zebre.

"I've been here now for over six months and it's been going quite well for me in spite of the weather. I'm enjoying my time here so far although it's been a little tough for the last few weeks. But it happens in rugby, you have to go through these stages and hopefully we will come out ahead."

He said he didn't come to Munster with preconceived notions and knew they would have a battle on their hands during a period of transformation. "I came with an open mind. I knew there was a young and new group, that fellows like Paul O'Connell and others would be gone, a team that was rebuilding while making its mark."

Irish Independent

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