New Zealand v Ireland
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland.
To start up: 7:05 p.m. local / 8:05 a.m. Irish
On TV: Live on Sky Sports.
Coming in the wake of Covid, this is a poignant and emotionally charged comeback tour for Jamison Gibson-Park, James Lowe and Bundee Aki, their first trip to New Zealand since before the pandemic.
So, at the Lowe’s, the first test at Eden Park marks the first time the Gibson-Park family will see him play for Ireland in the flesh.
“I’ll have family in the stands for the first time so it might get a bit emotional,” the Irish scrum-half admitted of the build-up ahead of kick-off. “But once you’re in, you’re good.”
With his wife and children also flying over Dublin, he says “everyone” will be there. “It will be a pretty big contingent. I’m from Great Barrier Island, off Auckland, so there will be a good number of people coming from there and from all over the country.
He plans to stay after the tour to visit his family. However, he is fully aware that rugby must come first over the next few weeks. Eden Park is familiar ground.
“I played there for the Blues. I stayed there for three years and they were rather fruitless years. We’ve always struggled, but when it comes to the All Blacks and Eden Park Fortress, I’ve been to games before and I think the public still feels they can’t be beaten.
A familiar foe too in the 102 caps Aaron Smith, who made his Test debut in the first Test a decade ago, while Gibson-Park, 29 (17 caps), was more than eight years later on the test scene.
“He (Smith) was probably a bit of an idol of mine when I came into the pro game,” Gibson-Park admitted. “He’s obviously had an amazing career so far. I think he kind of changed the game in the way the little guys came back into it because there was a stage there where they were looking for big guys. guy across the park.
“I think he changed the game for the better. He’s probably always had the best of me, it’ll be great to meet him for sure. I actually ran into him and his family downtown l ‘other day.
Smith said of Gibson-Park this week: “Great player and he’s also a great man. The way he is number one in Ireland now at half-back is quite impressive. He’s a big part of our plans this weekend, to make sure he has a slower night than he likes to play. But a quality player, plays at the tempo and is also a very good heads-up player.
“I’m very excited to play against him. I was in the stands last year to watch this performance, so hopefully he doesn’t have such a great run this time.
New Zealand: Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes); Sevu Reece (Crusaders, Tasman), Reiko Ioane (Blues), Quinn Tupaea (Chiefs), Leicester Fainga’anuku (Crusaders); Beauden Barrett (Blues), Aaron Smith (Highlanders); George Bower (Crusaders), Codie Taylor (Crusaders), Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Blues), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), Samuel Whitelock (Crusaders), Scott Barrett (Crusaders), Sam Cane (Chiefs, Captain), Ardie Savea (Hurricanes ). Substitutes: Samisoni Taukei’aho (Chiefs), Karl Tu’inukuafe (Blues), Angus Ta’avao (Chiefs), Pita Gus Sowakula (Chiefs), Dalton Papalii (Blues), Finlay Christie (Blues), Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders ), Braydon Ennor (Crusaders).
Ireland: Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD), Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers), James Lowe (Leinster), Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College, capt ), Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster), Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD), Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf), James Ryan (Leinster/UCD), Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne), Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution), Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD), Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College). Substitutes: Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers), Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers), Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf), Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena), Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere), Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen), Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf), Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians).
Arbitrator: Karl Dickson (RFU)
Face-to-face: Played 33, New Zealand 29 wins, 1 draw, Ireland 3 wins.
Last five meetings: (2016) Ireland 40 New Zealand 29 (Chicago). Ireland 9 New Zealand 21 (Dublin). (2018) Ireland 16 New Zealand 9 (Dublin). (2019) New Zealand 46 Ireland 14 (RWC q/f, Tokyo). (2021) Ireland 29 New Zealand 20.
Bet: 1/5 New Zealand, 25/1 Draw, 7/2 Ireland.