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Irish media's verdict: 'It's time for the acid test' - Ireland are primed, are All Blacks vulnerable?

Ireland's media are predicting a colossal clash when the All Blacks take on the No.2 ranked side (Ireland) in the world on Sunday morning (NZ time) in Dublin.

Some Irish media pundits are expecting the All Blacks to be a bit "vulnerable" after their narrow escape against England in Twickenham last week, where they only just edged the English 16-15.

Writing for the Irish Times, Patrick Madden says Joe Schmidt's (Ireland coach) side has the players to recreate the 2016 upset, which saw Ireland defeat the men in black for the first time - 40-29 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

"For Ireland, things have never been rosier. Joe Schmidt has masterminded a Six Nations Grand Slam and series win away to Australia in the same calendar year," wrote Madden.

"With a squad blessed with firebrand youth, experience and strength-in-depth - added to Leinster's dominance domestically and in Europe - Irish rugby is in a pretty good place.

"But now, it's time for the acid test.

"New Zealand arrive in Dublin on the back of a narrow 16-15 win England at Twickenham, with Eddie Jones's side a contentious disallowed try away from securing the result of the autumn."

The All Blacks have only suffered one loss this year, going down to South Africa in Wellington.

"Coupled with South Africa’s 36-34 Rugby Championship win in Wellington in September, there is a sense Steve Hansen's tourists could be slightly vulnerable, if only by their own lofty standards.

RTE's Daire O'Brien says the All Blacks will be dangerous following a sub-par performance against England last week.

"New Zealand are favourites on Saturday (the last time they were not favourites for an individual Test match was, unbelievably, almost a decade ago). That position is warranted," wrote O'Brien.

"The mistakes they made against England come from a contextually different place than Ireland's errors.

"Lineout excluded, our sloppiness versus Argentina manifested in relatively unpressurised situations and in midfield (Exhibit A, Sexton's rare but pronounced errors), the New Zealand team bungled when they had done the hard bit (line breaks) and seven points were winking at them.

"Given the skill and confidence of the NZ squad we would be sorry pundits to expect a repeat of these situations."

The All Blacks have made one change in their 23-man squad which beat England last week, with Ryan Crotty replacing injured Sonny Bill Williams at second five-eighth. While Anton Lienert-Brown makes his way onto the bench as midfield cover. 

Meanwhile, ESPN Rugby's two senior writers are both picking an Ireland victory.

Guinness Series, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 19/11/2016
Ireland vs New Zealand
Ireland's Jack McGrath on the attack
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie
Ireland's Jack McGrath on the attack against the All Blacks at AVIVA Stadium in Dublin. Source: Photosport


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