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Dublin: 11 °C Monday 22 December, 2014

Five things we learned from New Zealand v Ireland

Ireland endured a long night in the land of the long white cloud, but there were some positives, writes Sean Farrell.

Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

YES, YES, IT was a pretty emphatic defeat and we were completely out-muscled and out-classed by New Zealand.

But they are New Zealand. They are the World Champions.

Did you really expect it to be much different.

In 107 years we have never beaten the All Blacks, so lets just try and make sure we learn something from the best in the business. Here are five quick conclusions.

The World Champions are decent

This was arguably a better All Black side than the one which nervously edged past France at this same venue last year.

Though without Brad Thorn and Jerome Kaino, they seamlessly introduce new caps and fresh faces complimented by 10 experienced heads.

The comeback of Dan Carter was never going to be a bad thing either. He was almost flawless from placed balls kicking seven out of eight, including one from the improbable angle of the left wing / halfway line intersection.

That score – which made it 9-3 – was a crushing blow to Ireland, though it was a penalty conceded by Jamie Heaslip’s indiscipline. He’s making a habit of that against New Zealand – luckily he kept his knees in check this time.

Keith Earls can play inside centre

We knew he could fill the 13 jersey after an excellent Six Nations. His distribution is excellent while his running lines and acceleration will pose huge problems for lesser defences and lesser defenders than Conrad Smith.

This could prove just as successful as Gordon D’Arcy’s surprise move to that position in 2004. Just a pity the man outside him will not be around for another eight years. Sonny Bill Williams had a quiet game, he got no change from Ireland’s rejuvenated midfield.

Debutantes justified selection

While Fergus McFadden grounded the only try, he had a difficult day up against the monstrous Julian Savea. Simon Zebo, on the other wing, acquitted himself well enough and cancelled out Zac Guildford’s influence. The latter will not play next week, the former should.

Undoubtedly, the most pleasing performance in green came from Declan Fitzpatrick. The Kiwi scrum may not be the most powerful in the world, but its difficult to fault. Fitzpatrick locked it up nicely and sadly it noticeably deteriorated when Fitzpatrick was replaced – one was lost against the head before a string of penalties.

Rob Kearney somehow takes down Julian Savea. / ©INPHO/Photosport/Andrew Cornaga

Promising start

The scarcely believable selection from Declan Kidney made an instant difference. For the first time in an age, the team appeared to be playing heads-up rugby. A ninth minute switch back inside his own 22 from Jonathan Sexton sent Earls back towards the breakdown, but by doing so it opened up the right wing channel and Sexton, Rob Kearney and Brian O’Driscoll raced Ireland 50 metres upfield.

The off-loading in the tackle was encouraging, though any which missed the target were mercilessly punished we should not abandon this. New Zealand snaffle up loose ball better than most, remember.

Our back rows were in the wrong position

We pointed this out after the team was named. Peter O’Mahony counts himself as a six, so needs to be convinced to remain at open side for club and country.

in first 10 minutes, O’Brien was penalised twice in the space of 30 seconds. The second one was harsh, but he had caught Nigel Owens’ eye and the black shirts were able to make it from 3-3 camped on their own line to 6-3 ahead with barely a carry made.

One superb O’Mahony turnover stood out, as it came after O’Brien had missed a tackle on Savea. 22 metres out it looked like it might keep us in the game, it was brief.

Ireland did win their fair share of turnovers this morning, but in truth, New Zealand did not push themselves to full tilt until the ball came out into the loose.

Different class: Ireland demolished by All Blacks

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