New Zealand stars Dane Coles and Ryan Crotty were in high spirits on Monday but both men know that they will be in for one of their toughest tests in recent memory when they visit the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
The game will pit the two top-ranked sides in world rugby against one another as New Zealand travel to Ireland looking to emulate their victories in 2016 and more notably 2013, the infamous game in which Joe Schmidt’s charges suffered last-minute heartbreak at the hands of the white-hot All Blacks.
Speaking to the media, the versatile Ryan Crotty has very fond memories of that test in 2013 but knows that a clash against Ireland, especially on their home patch, will be one of their toughest games of the season.
“I’ve had to apologise to every Irishman I meet after that, chuckled Crotty who appeared off the bench in the win.
“It was a special year 2013, I think we went undefeated that year so it was really special for the boys. I’m excited to be back, it’s a great city to be in. Ireland will be an immensely tough opponent this weekend, so it’s good to be back.”
Crotty and Coles have been key men for the All-Blacks in the past and as they mentioned the pair have had their fair share of tussles with Ireland throughout the years. Most notably from an Irish perspective in Soldier Field in 2016.
This time, however, the pair feel that the significance of the two best sides in the world coming up against one another will add a bit of extra bite to the game.
“Yeah I think there’s a bit more intensity to the build-up of this game,” began Crotty.
“If you look at Ireland since 2013 they’ve been a side that’s been on the rise and they deserve all the credit they get. We’ve had some previous matches that have been pretty close so they deserve all that respect. It’s going to be a good test match.”
Ireland certainly have been a team on the rise in recent times. They already have an impressive Six Nations Grand Slam under their belt this year in addition to a history-making series victory over Australia.
On Sunday New Zealand head coach, Steve Hansen was full of praise for this Irish side, explaining that they make “the game of rugby look very easy.”
Crotty was keen to echo his head coach’s sentiments praising the skillset of this current side, something that he hints they had perhaps been lacking in the past.
“They’ve got their skill factor now, I think which is good but they are also still a very physical side, it takes you to your limits of preparation. They’re very physical and very tough.”
“Any test against the Irish is going to be tough, and this weekend is going to be no different.”
Joe Schmidt’s side will be looking to again emulate their heroics from Chicago in 2016 but despite Hansen being convinced otherwise during his press conference, Ireland will have to do so without the talismanic Conor Murray who is still not ready to return to the fold.
On the New Zealand front, Hansen explained that centre Sonny Bill Williams who suffered a shoulder injury in the narrow victory over England is the only doubt, but other than that his side “have a full deck of cards to choose from” ahead of the clash at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday