Irish rugby team defend decision to rest weary players

IRELAND management says the decision not to spend the entire build-up to Saturday's Test against New Zealand in New Plymouth was primarily based on player welfare.

The Irish, who arrived in Auckland late on Sunday night, have been criticised for choosing to spend the early part of the week preparing in the City of Sails and only flying in to the host city two days before the showdown with the All Blacks.

But team manager Paul McNaughton was adamant it was not a case of snubbing New Plymouth, more a matter of player recovery after a bruising encounter against the Barbarians at Thomond Park on Friday night, plus 29 hours' travel to get to New Zealand.

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"The recovery issue was a major issue," McNaughton said. "Because we were getting into Auckland too late to fly on, we felt from a recovery point of view the best thing to do would be to spend the first three days in Auckland and then go to New Plymouth.

"The idea of getting the guys on a plane today just really wasn't on from a recovery point of view. It was never an issue of (choosing) Auckland over New Plymouth."

Ireland also have a match against New Zealand Maori in Rotorua on 18 June as part of New Zealand Maori rugby's Centenary celebrations. But the focus for the next few days is firmly on the All Blacks and ending a losing streak that stretches back to November 1905.

Experienced flanker David Wallace, who has been on the wrong end five times against the All Blacks, including tight encounters in New Zealand in 2006 and 2008, believes it is about getting the little things right.

"We just have to focus on what we can do, the processes that we have to go through and making sure we know all the calls and we know what we're doing pattern-wise and then do it," said the forward.

"That's our focus. Getting side-tracked by creating history and all that (won't help) – just playing the All Blacks is a huge motivation in itself."

Backs coach Alan Gaffney admitted without the likes of experienced campaigners Paul O'Connell, Rory Best and Denis Leamy, plus rising stars Keith Earls and Luke Fitzgerald, Ireland faced a "touch tougher" time in trying to overturn the All Blacks but felt they still had the players to do it.

"We are still confident with the squad we have out here," said the Australian. "But it's going to be a tough day at the office, obviously, and we fully understand that.