THE TIME FOR experiments is over after Declan Kidney named a strong side to face the All Blacks in the final Test match in Hamilton on Saturday.
Keith Earls returns to the left wing after a first Test stint at a flexible inside centre alongside Brian O’Driscoll in Auckland.
Paddy Wallace, a man who touched down in New Zealand on Tuesday evening, is the man who will don the number 12 jersey this time out.
Peter O’Mahony, who excelled as a replacement last week, holds off the challenge of Chris Henry for the number 8 slot vacated by the injured Jamie Heaslip.
The starting line-up is otherwise unchanged from the side that narrowly lost 22-19 against the All Blacks in Christchurch.
Planning without Dan
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has called on Aaron Cruden to replace Dan Carter and has made five other changes.
Richie McCaw moves from his usual spot at openside flanker to take up position at the back of a New Zealand pack that, disconcertingly for the locals, was shifted backwards in the second-half last Saturday.
Kidney said the Irish focus, ever since their 42-10 defeat in the first Test, has been to focus on the game-plan rather than fret too much about the opposition.
His eyebrows did raise, albeit for a couple of seconds, when it was confirmed that Carter would miss out this Saturday.
Kidney admitted that he considered bringing in Ronan O’Gara at out-half and shift Jonathan Sexton back to partner O’Driscoll but feels Wallace is the right man for the job of plugging up a dangerous midfield duo of Sonny Bill Williams and Conrad Smith.
“The temptation to start Ronan is always there as he is a top class player,” said Kidney.
That extra 10%
Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll believes New Zealand’s position is not weakened too much by the introduction of Cruden for Carter. He said:
They managed OK in the World Cup, didn’t they?” he remarked. “Dan Carter is a world class player but Aaron Cruden is handy enough and he has shown it. The bits I’ve seen of the Super Rugby this season he has been pretty impressive.
Kidney added, “New Zealand are more than capable of doing what they did to us at Eden Park again so we’re mindful of that.
“We have to just focus on what we can do and find that extra 10%.”
Ireland: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll (captain), Paddy Wallace, Keith Earls; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Dan Tuohy, Donnacha Ryan, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony.
Replacements: Declan Fitzpatrick, Sean Cronin, Donnacha O’Callaghan, Chris Henry, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O’Gara, Andrew Trimble.
You can follow all the action of the third Test on Saturday morning (from 8am onwards) by following our live updates from Waikato Stadium.
*You can follow all the latest news, comments and goings on from the Irish camp by following @patmccarry on Twitter and by regularly checking in with TheScore.ie.