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Page last updated at 10:41 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008
Autumn Tests 2008
8-29 November 2008



Venue: Croke Park Date: Saturday, 15 November Kick-off: 1715 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC 5 live sports extra, BBC Radio Ulster MW and BBC Sport website, with live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Brian O'Driscoll in action against the All Blacks
Brian O'Driscoll will captain Ireland for the 50th time in Saturday's game

Croke Park has witnessed some memorable sporting occasions but an Ireland win over New Zealand on Saturday would be up there with the best of them.

Countless Gaelic Games legends have graced the stadium while Muhammad Ali - who fought there in 1972 - is among other stars to have performed there.

Ireland have never beaten the All Blacks but there is a huge sense of expectancy going into Saturday's game.

Both sides are at full strength and a thrilling contest looks in prospect.

The game marks Brian O'Driscoll's 50th Test as Ireland captain and full-back Girvan Dempsey has acknowledged that a home victory would be "fairytale stuff".

"All the players are aware of the achievement and will do everything they possibly can to ensure it's a special day for him," said Dempsey.

We must not be weak in any area - Kidney

In contrast, new Ireland coach Declan Kidney has played down the potentially historic nature of Saturday's game in his typically understated way.

But Kidney's sober pre-match analysis never did much to dampen the enthusiasm of Munster fans en route to Heineken Cup finals.

Ireland have had their chances to beat the All Blacks in recent years only to fall short in the closing stages of games.

RECENT MEETINGS
Jun 08: NZ 21-11 Ire
Jun 06: NZ 27-17 Ire
Jun 06: NZ 34-23 Ire
Nov 05: Ire 7-45 NZ
Jun 02: NZ 40-8 Ire
Jun 02: NZ 15-6 Ire
Nov 01: Ire 29-40 NZ
That was the case when the teams last met in Wellington in June when the score was level at 11-11 with 20 minutes left before the All Blacks ran out 21-11 winners.

"The players have got a lot more confident in themselves over the last three or four years, so I don't believe there is any psychological problem here," says Ireland manager Paul McNaughton.

"The games have been close over there and the guys feel that they could have won two out of four of those games."

Kidney's side warmed up for this weekend's assignment with a 55-0 win against Canada but Saturday's side shows six changes from the Thomond Park romp.

Experienced campaigners John Hayes, Rory Best, David Wallace, Alan Quinlan and Dempsey all return but Kidney can argue he is still giving youth its chance.

Tomas O'Leary's selection at scrum-half, ahead of Eoin Reddan, was the most notable selection call while Luke Fitzgerald is retained at centre alongside skipper O'Driscoll.

New Zealand coach Graham Henry has all his big guns back, with his side showing 11 changes from last weekend's 32-6 win over Scotland.

O'Connell is a leader - all those Munster guys are battle-hardened
NZ lock Brad Thorn
Dan Carter returns at stand-off, with Mils Muliaina, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Conrad Smith also returning to the backline, while captain Richie McCaw lock Brad Thorn and prop Tony Woodcock rejoin the pack.

The abrasive Thorn is expecting a bruising encounter against Ireland's second-row pairing of Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan.

"They're very solid. O'Connell is a leader - all those Munster guys are battle-hardened - they've won big games. It's a daunting task," Thorn said.

His coach Henry is expecting a far more serious test this weekend.

"The Irish showed passion and physicality when they played us in New Zealand earlier in the year and we are expecting another tough Test match," said Henry.

His Irish counterpart Kidney is renowned for pulling tactical rabbits out of the hat and it will be fascinating to see what methods the Irish use to disrupt the All Blacks.

A thriller looks on the cards and while New Zealand start as solid favourites, there is a suspicion that a piece of Irish sporting history could be in the making.

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see also
O'Driscoll eyes All Blacks scalp
12 Nov 08 |  Rugby Union
NZ make 11 changes for Irish game
11 Nov 08 |  Rugby Union
Ireland 55-0 Canada
08 Nov 08 |  Irish
Scotland 6-32 New Zealand
08 Nov 08 |  Scottish


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