Declan Kidney knows Ireland must play without fear in New Zealand


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The Independent Online

Ireland head coach Declan Kidney knows his side must play with no fear if they are to upset world champions New Zealand on their own patch.

Kidney named his 29-man squad for the three-Test series on Monday, including a trio of uncapped players in the form of Ulster prop Declan Fitzpatrick and Munster duo Mike Sherry and Simon Zebo.

Kidney left four slots in his squad empty, with a second-row spot being held for Paul O'Connell as he recovers from a knee injury. Ulster's Chris Henry is the leading candidate to fill the back-row vacancy.

The other gaps in the party are expected to be filled by Connacht prop Brett Wilkinson and Leinster scrum-half Isaac Boss.

Eleven of Leinster's Heineken Cup-winning squad were selected, including centre and captain Brian O'Driscoll, who missed the Six Nations after a shoulder operation and recently underwent keyhole surgery on his knee.

Ireland have never beaten the All Blacks in 107 years and 24 matches, and there will be few who give them any hope of ending that sequence next month.

But with Irish rugby high on confidence after Leinster and Ulster's appearance in the Heineken Cup final, Kidney wants to take the game to the All Blacks, hence his desire to keep experimentation to a minimum.

"The objective is to win the series, first and foremost, and to work downwards from there," he told a press conference.

"We know the record, we have never beaten New Zealand and to beat them would be a great achievement but it would be disrespectful to the jersey not to go for (the series win).

"You don't experiment in matches against New Zealand. It's akin to experimenting in Heineken Cup play-off matches. You need to go for it.

"We ask (New Zealand) to play with full-strength sides when they come here so we have to honour them and do the same over there."

There is no place in the squad for Ulster centre Paddy Wallace, while wings Tommy Bowe (kidney), Luke Fitzgerald (neck) and prop Tom Court (thumb) miss out through injury.

Kidney also praised the performances of his trio of uncapped selections, and believes the tour will be a valuable step in their development.

"It is a fantastic opportunity for them," he said.

"Going to New Zealand for a three-match tour, which Ireland have never done before, will be a great learning experience.

"But they've had to do it on the back of results because this isn't the place for the faint of heart."

The first Test will take place at Eden Park in Auckland on June 9, with Rugby League Park in Christchurch and Hamilton's Waikato Stadium the other venues on June 16 and June 23 respectively.