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Ireland coach Joe Schmidt can conjure up another shock for All Blacks - Cronin

Published 14/11/2016

Joe Schmidt is hoping to mastermind another famous victory over New Zealand
Joe Schmidt is hoping to mastermind another famous victory over New Zealand

Sean Cronin believes Joe Schmidt's coaching "think-tank" can conjure yet another peerless game plan to help Ireland sink New Zealand twice in three weeks.

Wily tactician Schmidt relishes developing one-off Test match blueprints, and Ireland hooker Cronin has tipped the shrewd Kiwi to pull another master stroke in Dublin on Saturday.

Ireland claimed their first ever win over the All Blacks in Chicago on November 5, but now Cronin has admitted Schmidt's men will need an entirely fresh approach to down the back-to-back world champions again.

South Africa were the last team to claim successive victories over New Zealand, all the way back in 2009, but Cronin insists Schmidt has the tactical supremacy to help Ireland emulate that feat.

"There's no better man than Joe to put together a game plan to go and attack them this week," said Cronin, with Ireland desperate to back up the 40-29 victory at Soldier Field.

"And I'm sure Joe has been in the think-tank with the rest of the coaches devising something special for us."

Ireland claimed their first win over New Zealand in 111 years of trying in Chicago, but will face a vastly-changed All Blacks line-up at the Aviva Stadium this weekend.

Stellar lock Brodie Retallick will start and restore the extra play-making edge that helped New Zealand storm to a record 18 straight victories before losing to the Irish.

Fellow second row Sam Whitelock could also return, and that pairing alone would transform the approach of Steven Hansen's men.

Cronin fully expects Schmidt to bunker down into the small hours with his coaching quango this week, thrashing out an entirely fresh schematic for his charges.

Ireland have no fresh injury issues after their comfortable 52-21 win over Canada, and Iain Henderson's return to full fitness boosts resources at lock.

Connacht powerhouse Ultan Dillane is likely to maintain a seat on the bench at Henderson's expense, however, with the Ulster man only just over his shoulder trouble.

Pocket-rocket replacement hooker Cronin insisted Schmidt's ability to revamp the approach week on week would infuse Ireland with confidence ahead of facing down the inevitable New Zealand backlash.

"We always have confidence that we can go out and match any team on the day, as long as we put in the performance and really hone in on the different aspects of the specific game that's required," said Cronin.

"There's a few areas we can take out of the Canada game and in Chicago where we can look to improve on.

"We weren't happy with our maul defence against Canada, our attack structure, there's areas there and there's parts of our defence in Chicago too.

"They're going to have a lot of changes, they've got world-class players in Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock to come back into the row, possibly moving Jerome Kaino back to the back row where he's been fantastic for years.

"It's a different team coming to the Aviva, so that's an area the coaches will have to look at for the selection they make too.

"It's got to be a different mentality, depending on their selection.

"As long as we get the attitude right, the physicality and the mentality, we know we can match anyone."

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