All change to face All Blacks

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The Independent Online
Ireland, whose preparations for the World Cup were thrown into confusion by a shocking defeat in Italy two weeks ago, yesterday made six changes to the side that will face the All Blacks at Ellis Park, Johannesburg on Saturday evening.

As expected, the old hands, Eric Elwood and Michael Bradley, return at half-back for Paul Burke and Niall Hogan and David Corkery, dropped after the defeat by England in the Five Nations' Championship, will play blind- side flanker. As for the second row, Ireland have gone for the younger blood of the 31-year-old Neil Francis instead of the 35-year-old David Tweed.

Gerry Murphy, the coach of Ireland, who have never beaten New Zealand, was asked how he intends to accomplish the feat on Saturday. "We'll do what Ireland has always done," he replied. "We have eight forwards to win the ball, two half-backs to kick it and the other five to run after it.

"In any case we'll be all right once the Irish supporters arrive. I've just heard they've landed in Sydney."

Yes, the spirit in the Irish camp - they are staying at the Sunnyside Park Hotel on the outskirts of Johannesburg - is on the sunny side and the manager, Noel Murphy, treated visitors to a recording of their new anthem, "Ireland's Call."

The selection, in particular, of Elwood, Bradley and Corkery is down to the fact that they are considered to be physically stronger for what promises to be the hardest match Ireland will have in South Africa.

"If I was sitting at home and looking at our chances I'd probably think it was beyond our means," Murphy said, "but we've worked hard and we are capable of doing a lot of great things. I'm glad we're meeting the All Blacks in our first game. Let's get it over and done with. We'll give them a game they'll remember."

Beneath the bonhomie, Murphy is concerned at the game's drift to professionalism. "In Ireland we are amateurs," he said. "Our players have to work and then train. Others can train as often as they like.

"This is the key issue of the game at the moment. I don't know where it's going to end. The mind boggles."

IRELAND (v New Zealand, Johannesburg, Saturday): J Staples (Harlequins); R Wallace (Garryowen), B Mullin (Blackrock College), J Bell (Ballymena), S Geoghegan (Bath); E Elwood (Lansdowne), M Bradley (Cork Constitution); N Popplewell (Wasps), T Kingston (Dolphin, capt), G Halpin (London Irish), G Fulcher (Cork Constitution), N Francis (Old Belvedere), D Corkery (Cork Constitution), P Johns (Dungannon), D McBride (Malone). Replacements: M Field (Malone), P Burke (Cork Constitution), N Hogan (Terenure College), A Foley (Shannon), P Wallace (Blackrock College), K Wood (Garryowen).

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