Touring Irish squad brings toughest mid-year series to All Blacks doorstep

Touring Irish squad will bring toughest mid-year series for 2022 All Blacks
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You could say, not since 2017, has the challenge been bigger. And this touring Irish squad has an opportunity like few others, to win games and even the entire 2022 Summer tour.

New Zealand will undoubtedly feel the same – by turning this Irish visit into motivation to avenge last year’s loss in Dublin. The hosts play three Test matches, along with two valuable clashes against the famed Maori All Blacks [New Zealand Maori representative side]. All five tour games hold importance, as described by Ireland head coach Andy Farrell last week when announcing the 40-man Irish touring squad.

“We will learn so much about the players and the group as a whole as we have to front up for five incredibly tough fixtures, far from the comforts of home and in grounds where the home support will greatly outnumber traveling Irish fans. This is the start of our Rugby World Cup campaign and it is going to be a fantastic challenge for our group facing five massive tests across the three weeks.”

With Johnny Sexton leading the tour party, they leave home soil rested and with a focus to use this series as a springboard to something Ireland has never achieved (in 2023).

Touring Irish squad will bring toughest mid-year series to All Blacks doorstep

His sentiments are both internal and external. From the inside, Irish rugby has had both great growth and success. Yet externally, they have failed to progress further than a Rugby World Cup quarter-final. Seven times the nation has failed to advance further, and even with the monumental efforts of defeating New Zealand twice, it has overshadowed much of the good steps made under Joe Schmidt and now Farrell.

Defining how their journey to Paris will use the hostile environment of a series versus the All Blacks, Farrell said in his media briefing “It’s priceless for us, we will find out more about ourselves [his Irish touring squad], who is going to front up and perform at a level that they probably didn’t think they could perform at. That’s what we’re after, pushing the boundaries.

“Some guys on this tour will fall by the wayside, some guys on this tour will flourish that we didn’t think would flourish because of the extreme pressure. I have no doubt some guys who didn’t make the tour will have an unbelievable pre-season and start next season with a bang and work their way back into this.”

Farrell’s 40-man squad includes five uncapped players – the Leinster trio of Ciaran Frawley, Joe McCarthy and Jimmy O’Brien, Munster prop Jeremy Loughman and Connacht flanker Cian Prendergast. There are another 12 players with less than 10 caps. Ireland’s last Summer Tour was in 2018 when they won the Lansdowne Cup with and 2-1 test series victory over Australia.

Imagine how the reaction from players and supporters will be if one or more Tests are won against the home nation. It would be a galactic rise in form, placing Ireland near the top of the frontrunners for the 2023 tournament. Yet that is all speculation. The only thing that Sexton and his group can guarantee is that this will be one of the toughest mid-year tours – by both the tourists, as much as for the hosts to withstand.

This tour might be ‘priceless’ and may bring rewards for the Irish nation. A real test that many will feel is both the most feared and fulfilling task in World Rugby.

Irish touring squad New Zealand match schedule:

Māori All Blacks v Ireland – Hamilton, Wednesday, June 29

New Zealand v Ireland – Auckland, Saturday, July 2

New Zealand v Ireland  Dunedin, Saturday, July 9

Māori All Blacks v Ireland – Wellington, Tuesday, July 12

New Zealand v Ireland – Wellington, Saturday, July 16

 

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