All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree is expecting a big challenge from Ireland in July, particularly when it comes to physicality.
Ireland will travel to New Zealand to take on the All Blacks in three Tests and also the Maori All Blacks in two midweek clashes.
Plumtree is under no illusions that Ireland will pose a physical contest and wants his side to rise above it and raise their intensity this season.
“Facing the Irish, facing these bigger teams physically, we know that they rise physically in that department,” Plumtree said.
“We’ve got to rise further. We know we’ve got the skill, we know we’ve got the power, but our physicality’s going to have to go up a couple of notches this year.
“That’s something that we’ll be focussing on but also just our speed and our skills. They’re all something that we’ll continue to work on.
“The All Blacks forward pack, the onus is on us to make sure that we get momentum for [the backs]. That’s our job. Whether it’s up front set-piece or around the park, we’ve got to be able to get across the advantage line and consistently build pressure.”
New Zealand will not be taking this Test series lightly after losing to Ireland at the end of the last year, and Plumtree revealed a lot of work has been put into the planning.
“I think it’s a different playing field now. We know we’re playing against a very good Irish side and we have to play very well to beat them. We’re all aware of that. There’s been a lot of work in the last two or three months around our planning,” he said.
“This is the exciting stage, the squad’s announced, we go into camp from now until the first test, pretty much. It’ll be a fresh All Blacks side and playing at home, there’s a lot for us to look forward to.”
All Blacks captain Sam Cane expects a blockbuster series as the Irish have improved into a “genuine top contender” and looks forward to the battle.
“I just think the way the Irish have played for the last few years, they’ve really moved up in world rugby and the quality of the rugby they put out has been so consistent and now they’re a genuine top contender,” Cane said.
“I think they’ve pretty much had our number as well. It hasn’t been easy. We’ve lost to them in Ireland twice now and once in Chicago.
“It’s been 10 years since they came out here so it’s going to be a real unique series. It’s going to be massive, I think. Just really excited for it to kick off now.”
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