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Ireland confident of beating All Blacks

Ireland go into the second rugby Test against New Zealand in Dunedin on Saturday positive they have learnt the lessons of an opening defeat in the three-match series.

That confidence is based on their strong start and finish to the first Test at Auckland which they lost 42-19 to trail 1-0 in the three-match series.

Ireland had the All Blacks under pressure for the first 20 minutes and matched New Zealand 14-14 in a second half in which the visitors were held up over the goalline on at least three occasions.

The match slipped away from them in the middle period when the All Blacks scored four of their six tries.

Head coach Andy Farrell and his assistants see in that period the key to an Irish resurgence which might reverse the first-Test outcome and level the series.

Ireland guarded possession closely and won the territorial contest in the first 20 minutes. The game-changing moment came when the All Blacks scored a breakout try through winger Sevu Reece, who pounced on a loose Irish pass.

Farrell realises if Ireland can eliminate that kind of careless error, they likely will be able to keep pressure on New Zealand for a longer period.

They forced New Zealand to make almost 200 tackles last weekend, testing their defense, but were less clinical with their opportunities than New Zealand.

“To be honest the lads are in a good place now,” Farrell said. “You would expect them to be but even earlier in the week there is a bit of doubt creeps in when you don’t know the answers.

“They do know the answers. They know the access they gave the All Blacks and they understand that you cannot do that because they know first-hand that they will be behind your own posts.”

The other key incident which led to change of momentum in the first Test came when Ireland lost captain Johnny Sexton to a head injury. Sexton left the field in the 30th minute and didn’t return.

In his absence Ireland took time to recover their composure and pattern, but Sexton has been named in the No.10 jersey.

Both teams have made only one personnel change to their starting line-up for Saturday’s match. Farrell has recalled Australia-born winger Mack Hansen who replaces Keith Earls after missing the first Test because of COVID-19.

New Zealand head coach Ian Foster has moved Scott Barrett from blindside flanker to lock to replace Sam Whitelock who has been diagnosed with delayed onset concussion. Dalton Papalii replaces Barrett in the back row.

Foster believes a consistent selection approach will help the All Blacks secure the series in two matches.

“We felt making too many changes right now would take us back a cog,” Foster said. “(Ireland) are going to be desperate to keep the series alive, so we won’t be surprised that we’re going to have to lift again.”

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