Ahead of the series decider between New Zealand and Ireland in Wellington, we pick out our five talking points for the pivotal fixture.
Check out what we’re keeping an eye out for on Saturday, here.
Have the All Blacks learned their disciplinary lessons?
Although Eddie Jones isn’t happy with the way the game is refereed, World Rugby have been quite right to clamp down on head shots, whether intentional or not, and it is up to the teams to adjust. Those in New Zealand have been the most critical of the governing body’s stance and, as a result, they were caught out last weekend. The All Blacks had one player sent off and probably should have had another, so it will be interesting to see whether they adapt. Ian Foster’s men need a change in approach and attitude, otherwise it could cost them on Saturday and, more pertinently, in a Rugby World Cup knockout game.
Ireland need to find clinical streak
For all their possession, territory and overall dominance, it did not truly show on the scoreboard in Dunedin. Credit must go to New Zealand, who were incredibly resilient defensively, but the Irish certainly need to be more clinical in Wellington. It has been an issue for them in both Test matches and it may be the deciding factor on Saturday as New Zealand have barely passed up an opportunity when they have reached the opposition 22. If the All Blacks keep 15 men on the field then Ireland will need to take their chances or the hosts will quite simply win the game, as well as the series.
The return of Sam Whitelock
One key difference from the last week to this is that the legendary second-row has recovered from a head injury to take his place in the XV. Whitelock was key to their first Test triumph, consistently disrupting Ireland’s lineout ball and denying them try-scoring opportunities in good areas. With him out of the picture in Dunedin, the tourists had a much better day at the set-piece, which means Andy Farrell’s men will have to do a much better job of negating the 33-year-old’s threat this weekend.
Ageless Ireland stars backing up second Test displays
There were a number of outstanding individual displays at Forsyth Barr Stadium, but we particularly enjoyed the efforts of Peter O’Mahony and Johnny Sexton. The former arguably produced his greatest ever performance – among many – in the second Test and the was equally excellent, guiding the team around the field with aplomb and keeping Ireland on the front foot. Needless to say, however, both players will need to continue that fine form and maintain that excellence in Wellington.
A chance to shine for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
With the World Cup just over a year away, it was odd not to see the former rugby league star involved over the past couple of matches. Remember, Tuivasa-Sheck is 29 which means next year in France might be his one and only shot at a global tournament, so if the All Blacks really believe he could be an asset in France the centre needs plenty of game time. The Blues man, who shone in the recent Super Rugby Pacific campaign, has finally been named in a matchday 23 and it will be fascinating to see what Tuivasa-Sheck can produce should he get onto the field.
READ MORE: New Zealand v Ireland preview: All Blacks to triumph in Wellington classic and win the series
The article New Zealand v Ireland: Five talking points ahead of the third Test including All Blacks discipline and Ireland’s golden oldies appeared first on Planetrugby.com.