All Blacks to target Murray and Sexton in Chicago

by AFP

New Zealand captain Kieran Read says the All Blacks will target Ireland halves pairing Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton when the two nations battle it out at Soldier Field in Chicago on Saturday.

The All Blacks will start as overwhelming favourites to extend their record 18-match winning streak against the Irish, who have never beaten New Zealand in more than a century of trying.

Read however is wary of the threat posed by scrumhalf Murray and flyhalf Sexton, who resume their potent alliance behind the scrum.

"They're a structured side and they use the nine and 10 to direct them around the field really well. So we've just got to try and upset that as much as we can and not let them get too much momentum." - Read

"They're a structured side and they use the nine and 10 to direct them around the field really well," Read told reporters on the sidelines of New Zealand's final training session Friday.

"So we've just got to try and upset that as much as we can and not let them get too much momentum."
The All Blacks are also devising a plan to shackle Ireland secondrower Devin Toner, the athletic 2.10m lock who will tower over the rest of the lineout.

"He doesn't change the way we'll approach our lineouts," Read said. "But obviously on their ball he's going to be a big target for them. We've just got to get up and put as much pressure on him as we can."

New Zealand will tackle Toner with both of their first choice locks – Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick – missing through injury. Luke Romano is also absent after flying home from Chicago this week following a family bereavement.

It has left New Zealand starting with a new-look pairing in the engine room of the pack, with loose forward Jerome Kaino starting alongside Pat Tuipulotu at lock.

Jerome Kaino played two Tests in June. Photo: Getty ImagesRead said Kaino had adapted well to the challenge of starting his 75th Test match in a new position.

"His ears are a bit sore," Read joked. "He's excited by the challenge. It's his first start in a foreign jersey but he's excited. He's been willing to do everything for the boys. He's got a zip in his step which is awesome to see."

Meanwhile, Ireland captain Rory Best says his team will not fear New Zealand as they chase an elusive first ever victory over the world champions.

The veteran hooker, who earns his 98th cap at Soldier Field, said the Irish would take a positive mindset into their latest attempt to end a 111-year losing streak.

"We've got to respect them but we can't go out and fear them," Best told a press conference. "We've got to go out and have our game plan, stick to it rigidly and ultimately beat the All Blacks."
New Zealand, who clinched back-to-back World Cup crowns in 2015, arrive in Chicago on the back of a record winning streak.

The New Zealanders have compiled 18 consecutive victories and are favourites to record a 19th against Ireland, who have never beaten the Kiwis in 28 meetings since 1905.

If Ireland are to stand any chance of an upset, Best believes his men will have to play a near-flawless game.

"From what I've seen over the Rugby Championship you've got to minimise the amount of unforced errors you have," - Best

"They're going to create chances. You can't then gift them chances on top of that."

Former New Zealand captain Sean Fitzpatrick recently described the current All Blacks team as the greatest ever, an assessment that Best was reluctant to contradict.

"It's kind hard when you're comparing back through generations. But there's no doubt that this All Black team is an extremely talented team that know how win games of rugby, and know how to win well.

"And if Sean Fitzpatrick is saying they're the best team then they would have to be close to it."

The Chicago Test match between Ireland and New Zealand will be streamed live from at 7:00am ADST Sunday morning. More info here.