WELLINGTON: Several members of the All Blacks were given a timely reminder of the devastating earthquake that destroyed much of central Christchurch last year when a smaller quake woke them up earlier this week as they began preparations for their second Test against Ireland.
“It can’t have been too bad, I never woke up,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, a Christchurch resident used to the aftershocks following the earthquake last year, said after the 4.2-magnitude shake early on Tuesday.
“But those who don’t live in Christchurch got a nice welcome and all the Christchurch people were having a joke about that with guys diving round bedrooms and whatnot.”
The off-field distractions aside, Hansen hammered home the expectations he wanted from the world champions, making just one enforced change to his starting line-up from the team which won the first Test 42-10 last week at Eden Park.
Adam Thomson has moved into the starting line-up as blindside flanker after Victor Vito suffered a knee injury in Auckland.
Thomson’s elevation has created an opportunity for Sam Cane to win his first Test cap from the bench.
The experienced core of the All Blacks, 12 of whom were World Cup winners, helped Hansen’s era get off to a winning start and dispel any fears of a World Cup hangover.
The New Zealand side soaked up the pressure, waited for their opportunities and then struck from depth as their speed, abrasiveness and ability to offload in tackles and break the Irish defensive line was evident.
Ireland, who had been combative in the opening 20 minutes last week in Auckland, were angry they had not been able to maintain that intensity after the first of Savea’s three tries gave the All Blacks a 16-3 lead they steadily built on.
Ireland coach Declan Kidney has made four changes to his starting side. Tighthead prop Mike Ross returns from a hamstring injury to boost the front row, while Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll are reunited in the midfield after Keith Earls was ruled out with an injury.
New Zealand starting XV: Israel Dagg, Zac Guildford, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Julian Savea, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Adam Thomson, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock
Ireland starting XV: Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Gordon D’Arcy, Andrew Trimble, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, Kevin McLaughlin, Donnacha Ryan, Dan Touhy, Mike Ross, Rory Best, Cian Healy
l Meanwhile in Sydney, Wales know they need to shut down Australia scrumhalf Will Genia and nullify the influence of flanker David Pocock if they are to keep the three-match series alive in the second Test in Melbourne tomorrow.
Genia ran the show in Australia’s 27-19 win in the first Test in Brisbane last weekend, feeding off quick ball and stunning the European champions with a brilliant individual try.
The Welsh battled their way back in the second half, however, and remain confident they can record their first win against the Wallabies since 1969.
Australia are expecting a backlash from the tourists and have anticipated attempts to stop Genia and put pressure on Berrick Barnes, who retains the flyhalf spot in an unchanged Wallabies team.
Australia starting XV: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Cooper Vuna, Rob Horne, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane, Berrick Barnes, Will Genia; Wycliff Palu, David Pocock (captain), Scott Higginbotham, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.
Wales starting XV: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Ashley Beck, George North, Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Ryan Jones, Sam Warburton (captain), Dan Lydiate, Alun Wyn Jones, Bradley Davies, Adam Jones, Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins. – Reuters