No revenge mission for Irish

Ireland flanker Simon Easterby has vowed his side will not seek retribution against New Zealand for the tackle which forced captain Brian O'Driscoll out of the November Tests. [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

Ireland flanker Simon Easterby has vowed his side will not seek retribution against New Zealand for the tackle which forced captain Brian O’Driscoll out of the November Tests.

British & Irish Lions captain O’Driscoll was victim of a controversial spear tackle just moments into the opening Test against the All Blacks in June, sustaining a shoulder injury which required surgery.

O’Driscoll missed the rest of the tour and has been ruled out of the autumn internationals, heightening the sense of injustice felt towards culprits Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu.

Umaga’s role in the incident attracted most of the Lions’ fury and the All Blacks have chosen to rest their captain for Saturday’s clash at Lansdowne Road, sensibly removing a potential flashpoint.

The threat of reprisals remains, however, as Mealamu starts at hooker, but Easterby insists O’Driscoll’s Lions misfortune will not be on Irish minds come Saturday.

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"The matter is finished now. We haven’t mentioned it all this this week," said the Llanelli back row, who has replaced O’Driscoll as Ireland captain.

"It’s between Brian and Tana Umaga. We know we have to match New Zealand physically but we won’t be looking to do anything outside the laws of the game."

All Blacks boss Graham Henry has made 15 changes to the side which crushed Wales 41-3 on Saturday but such is the depth of New Zealand rugby Ireland face an equally daunting line-up and are heavy underdogs.

The two weakest links – at least on paper – are debutants Jason Eaton and John Afoa and Easterby hopes Ireland’s experienced line-up is able to exploit the newcomers’ rookie status.

"Despite all the changes New Zealand have made for us their style will stay the same because it’s worked so well for them.
It worked against the Lions and in the Tri-Nations," he said.

"Last weekend against Wales they looked very sharp. They are very lucky to have a squad of 30-odd players who can perform at Test level. Whatever team they put out, they will play with a very similar style.

"But there are two newcomers there and it is often said that Super 12 rugby is very different to Test rugby. If that’s the case maybe we can catch them cold.

"But I’m sure they know what they’re doing and the management obviously think they’re good enough to play Test rugby."

One of the fiercest battle grounds will be the back row where Ireland could feasibly have an edge – despite the presence of crack openside Richie McCaw in the New Zealand line-up.

McCaw is without peer in the number seven shirt but in Easterby, Wasps’ Johnny O’Connor and Denis Leamy of Munster, Ireland have an athletic trio who could prove worthy contenders in the loose.

"The breakdown is a huge area for the All Blacks – especially for the back row, as the Lions found out in the summer," added Easterby.

"(Ireland coach) Eddie O’Sullivan has picked a back row which can compete in that area. It will be a key area to winning the game.

"Wales struggled a lit bit there. Richie is world class at his job and he’ll be someone we have to target, but Johnny is also in good form."

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