DUBLIN (Reuters) – World champions New Zealand must put on their best performance of the year if they are to beat Ireland in a meeting between rugby’s two top-ranked teams in Dublin on Saturday, said captain Kieran Read.
The All Blacks suffered their first ever loss to the Irish two years ago, 40-29 in Chicago, before taking revenge with a 21-9 victory in Dublin two weeks later.
“We’re going to need the best performance of our season, the way the Irish have been playing,” he told reporters after the captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium on Friday.
“I know we have to prepare as well as we can physically. Physicality and intensity wins test matches. We’re going to be right up in that area.
“It’s all about prepping the boys as best we can and getting us in the right space. I feel we’re in a pretty good space right now mentally, and physically we’re in the best shape we can be as well.”
New Zealand go in search of their 12th victory in 13 matches this year with their only blemish a 36-34 home loss to South Africa in the Rugby Championship in September.
They scraped past England 16-15 at Twickenham last weekend when a controversial refereeing decision helped see them to victory.
“Ireland are a very structured side. In terms of how they hold on to the ball, they’re one of the best tier one nations in the world. And also their ability to defend very strongly as well, so they’re a good side,” Read said.
“The Irish are undoubtedly the best side up here in the northern hemisphere at the moment. For us to challenge ourselves in these conditions is an exciting time.”
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ed Osmond)