New Zealand v Ireland: Five talking points ahead of second Test as all eyes on Johnny Sexton and dangerous Dalton Papalii

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Ireland know that this second Test against New Zealand is must-win as the series is on the line at Forsyth Barr Stadium this Saturday.

Here’s the talking points ahead of this weekend’s fascinating game in Dunedin.

Johnny’s back

The selection of Johnny Sexton has prompted plenty of debate after he was forced off with a head knock in the first Test in Auckland. The Ireland veteran has passed subsequent tests and will start from the off again on Saturday, with safety campaign group Progressive Rugby raising concerns about the decision. That led to World Rugby responding and several questions being answered by the Ireland staff in the lead-up to this game. Expect all eyes to be on Sexton early on.

Dalton starts

An injury to Sam Whitelock means that Scott Barrett has been shunted back into the New Zealand second-row this weekend, which freed up a spot in the back-row. That has been taken by one of the form players in this season’s Super Rugby Pacific as Dalton Papalii will play in the unfamiliar position of blindside flanker. A regular openside and hugely influential figure for the Blues, Papalii is definitely a player to watch in Dunedin and we’re looking forward to seeing him in full flow.

A great stadium

One of the world’s best stadiums is the venue on Saturday as Forsyth Barr Stadium plays host to New Zealand and Ireland. While it’s not the biggest in terms of capacity, its roof helps create a superb atmosphere and with rain forecast it’s a good job. Ireland have played here before during the 2011 Rugby World Cup when they beat Italy and will hope for a similar result. The neutral meanwhile can expect entertainment aplenty with outside weather conditions hindering neither side.

Mack in green

While Keith Earls gave a typically solid account of himself in a try-scoring showing last weekend, the return of Mack Hansen is a welcome boost for Andy Farrell in this second Test. Hansen’s attacking talents are set to bolster Ireland in that area and if both he and fellow wing James Lowe see plenty of ball the visitors’ chances of making it 1-1 in the series will increase. Hansen’s individual battle with the impressive Leicester Fainga’anuku is one of many to enjoy in Dunedin.

Intriguing scrum battle

The All Blacks pack got the better of their Irish counterparts last week, winning three scrum penalties at key times in the clash. Although the Ireland forwards were not blown away, set-piece is absolutely crucial at Test level, allowing a platform to play from or leveraging territory and points through penalties. All Black George Bower had an excellent scrummaging performance on the day and Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong has acknowledged that his side needs to improve their scrummaging this week to produce the complete performance they need to level the series. It’ll be fascinating to see if Farrell’s men can mitigate the All Blacks scrum power or if they can even flip the switch to gain dominance of their own and turn their solid 20-minute performance in the first Test into an 80-minute performance off the back of a solid set-piece.

READ MORE: New Zealand v Ireland preview: All Blacks to wrap up series despite improved Irish performance

The article New Zealand v Ireland: Five talking points ahead of second Test as all eyes on Johnny Sexton and dangerous Dalton Papalii appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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