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Ireland v New Zealand: Steve Hansen says Irish are favourites to triumph on their home patch

By Nick Purewal

Published 18/11/2016

Massive challenge: All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen
Massive challenge: All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen has insisted back-to-back world champions New Zealand are the underdogs for their rematch with Ireland in Dublin.

All Blacks boss Hansen boasts a 92% win record in his four years at the New Zealand helm, but believes Ireland's historic 40-29 win in Chicago alters the complexion of Saturday's Aviva Stadium encounter.

New Zealand will field fit-again stellar lock duo Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock for tomorrow's Dublin Test, with Israel Dagg selected on the wing to counter Ireland's exacting aerial kicking threat.

"As expected, there is huge excitement and anticipation within our squad ahead of this weekend's Test against the Irish," said All Blacks head coach Hansen.

"While there was obvious disappointment at the loss in Chicago, disappointment doesn't win Test matches - it's about having great preparation and attitude, and delivering on the day.

"We know the challenge we face from Ireland will again be massive and we are going into the game as the underdogs.

"They'll be full of confidence and committed to delivering on their home patch.

"So we will have to take a massive step up, to get the performance we are looking for.

"It is a challenge that this team needs right now and how we respond will tell us a lot about ourselves. As I said, we are very much looking forward to Saturday."

Ireland can be sure to scoff at Hansen's claim that New Zealand are the underdogs, and the bookies would back that up too.

The average odds remain with Ireland placed at 6-1 for victory, with the All Blacks 1-9 on to win.

Retallick and Whitelock's restoration will boost the All Blacks' shape no end.

Retallick has beaten concussion while Whitelock has proved his fitness this week after ankle trouble.

Dagg's selection on the wing is entirely designed to prevent Ireland's high-ball work, his comfort at full-back and under the Garryowen a boost to the defensive qualities in New Zealand's back-three.

Belfast Telegraph

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