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Ireland Rugby Coach Kidney Hopes Breakdown Will Remain A Contest

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Ireland rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll.jpg
Ireland rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll.jpg

By Robert Lowe of NZPA

Auckland, June 9 NZPA - Ireland rugby coach Declan Kidney has argued that the new law interpretations shouldn't dilute the contest at the breakdown.

The Irish, who face the All Blacks in a one-off test in New Plymouth on Saturday night, are having to come up to speed with the new interpretations, which were used in the Super 14.

Among the changes is the way the breakdown is controlled, with the aim being to free up the ball and encourage more running rugby.

Kidney said it always took time to adjust to something new, but it was a process his players would have to go through.

"It is what it is," he said.

"It's the exact same for all the opposition. It's our job to adapt."

But he also argued for a balance in terms of the laws between continuity and contest.

"If you take the contest out of it, you get a game that's a different code," he said.

"I think it's going to be important that we try and keep the contest in the game."

While he had watched the new interpretations in operation on television, there was nothing like witnessing them first hand, "so let's have a few matches and see how it goes".

Kidney yesterday named a 22-man test line-up with 10 changes to the 15 that started in the defeat to the Barbarians at the weekend.

Two of the players who sat out the match in Limerick, skipper and centre Brian O'Driscoll and prop John Hayes, are recalled.

Their inclusion gives Ireland a huge boost in experience, with O'Driscoll due to make his 102nd test appearance and Hayes his 103rd.

However, like the All Blacks, the tourists have been hit by a long list of injuries, with many players unavailable for the three-match trip, which continues with fixtures against New Zealand Maori in Rotorua and Australia in Brisbane.

Kidney said the side named to face the All Blacks was the strongest at his disposal.

"It always is, when you pick your national team," he said.

"All these players are training well. There are marginal calls to be made in several positions but that's the job of the coach to make those calls."

Among the decisions was opting for seasoned international Ronan O'Gara at first five-eighth ahead of up-and-comer Jonathan Sexton, who is on the bench.

O'Gara has 98 caps to Sexton's six.

Sexton started in the last three rounds of the Six Nations but he missed the match against the Barbarians with a gum infection near where he had surgery for a broken jaw.

Kidney added that Ireland's focus for the week was solely on the test and they weren't looking ahead to next year's World Cup.

"When you've got the No 1 ranked team in the world, the only thing you have your eyes fixed on is them," he said.

"If you take your eyes off them, you're going to get a thumping."

He noted that the upcoming test would be his second against the All Blacks as Ireland coach.

"We played them in Dublin and came off second by a good bit," he said of the 22-3 defeat in 2008.

"Saturday is the reason you get into sport -- to play the best teams in the world, especially on their home patch."


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