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Aisle be Back: All Blacks v Ireland

  • By Kevin McCarthy

I guess that makes it definitive. Beauden Barrett is back as the first choice first-five, courtesy of the team to face Ireland on Sunday.

Not what many would have picked a year ago. Of course, 50 years ago, Richie Mo’ounga would have sent a bunch of flowers to his missus, rather than risk letting the other guy get some game time.

I can hear the letter writing campaign (or social media posts) firing up already down South, but let’s reassure upset Cantabrians that the status of one-two is likely to be highly changeable and fluid in the run-up to the World Cup.

I suppose that’s the ideal for coach Foster, keeping them both on their toes – and ideal for the journalistic narrative of who’s the best.

The pack seems to be settling into what might be considered the first-choice line-up now. Clearly Ethan Blackadder has the edge at 6, with that high work rate and as an extra lineout option.

Dalton Papalii similarly at No.7, although surely Sam Cane will be back as first choice once he gets a few more kilometres on the clock. Or maybe not?

Another midfield combo. David Havili certainly did his bit as a makeshift second-five, but whether it was him or the gameplan, it was a case of ground hog day  against the Boks.

It’s hard to know if this will be another Ireland – New Zealand arm wrestle in Dublin. If it is, then the All Blacks will get another check on whether their pack is up to the job of getting some dominance.

The Boks suggested they weren’t. definitely at lineout, and less definitively, at the scrum.

I’m still hankering for the French game though as being the tour highlight.

That will be a fascinating selection. It will be quick turnaround of course, so it will be a call on how much is taken out of the pack in Dublin.

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The Wellington Lions bowed out in typical fashion this season, playing one half and not the other.

To be fair they kept it interesting all season, by keeping you wondering which was going to be their good half.

Ironically after losing to Tasman, the teams in the other semi-final are Waikato v Canterbury.

Waikato you remember was the team the Lions blew an enormous lead against, while Canterbury was the one they nailed in a storming last 20.

On paper a strong team but inconsistency was the killer.

Hurricanes supporters can cheer on Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu, Whanganui and Poverty Bay instead this weekend.

Top qualifier Hawke’s Bay host Tasman in the other Premiership semi-final on Saturday and Manawatu play Otago in their Championship semi-final in Palmerston North tonight.

Whanganui welcome North Otago on to Cooks Gardens in the straight Lochore Cup final, for third place in the Heartland Championship, while Poverty Bay and Mid Canterbury meet in Gisborne for fifth and for the inaugural Bill Osborne Shield.

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I really need to see my therapist. Was it just me or did the sight of John Mitchell in the stands at the T20 semi-final, cheering on his son, set off PTSD triggers from 2003?

I kept seeing flashes of the journey, and Stirling Mortlock. He’s not even running that fast!

Still, hopefully his son will finish the journey on Monday morning.

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