Ireland boss Andy Farrell has brushed off concerns that Ireland will wilt in the face of the intense physicality which the All Blacks will bring to the field of play when they meet next month for their three-Test series.
On Tuesday, Farrell named his touring squad, the majority of which is comprised of Leinster players who have enjoyed a season of great highs and lows, the most significant of the latter being losses in the Champions Cup final (against La Rochelle) and the URC semi-final (against the Bulls) respectively.
In both of the above defeats, Leinster were met with opposition from big, powerful packs of forwards who succeeded in wearing their opponents down and estranging them from a game-plan which worked beautifully throughout the regular season.
The resistance which they will meet in the land of the long white cloud will be of a very similar strain with the All Blacks’ mobile and burly forwards, though Farrell is showing little concern.
“A lot gets said about Ireland and are they playing like Munster, are they playing like Leinster, are they playing like Ulster etc,” Farrell told independent.ie.
“We're Ireland, we're our own team, you know? We play our own way and we've come up against big teams before and been unbelievably physical.
“Physicality is not just about fronting up, it's how you play the game and how you get opportunities to create space to be able to get over the gain-line and be able to be aggressive in the right parts of the game.
“I think we've done pretty well of late in that type of scenario, so no, it doesn't affect us at all.”
Farrell was asked what he thought it would take for the Irish to pull off a first victory on New Zealand soil.
“Where we've not been before, that's the fact,” he said.
“Our last performance against them, or any good performance you've seen over the last 18 months to two years, we need to be better than that.
“It's different over there, and that's why touring for these lads is so important. We've missed it. We've lads on over 20 caps that have never toured.
“Walking around Auckland or Wellington or Dunedin, it's not like walking down Ballsbridge and people winding the window down and saying how good you are.
“This is completely different. This is proper international rugby that doesn't get any better and it's exactly what we want at this point in time.”
The squad departs for Auckland next week and are currently in camp which, fortuitously, has not been affected by the URC after Leinster bowed out in the semis.
“This three-day camp is making sure that we get cohesive, that we start enjoying each other's company and the relationships that we've built, we need to build them even stronger in the next four weeks,” Farrell said.
“You can look at it both ways. If Leinster and Ulster were to have both played in the final, you could say that they got game time and are match fit etc, or you could say well listen, we've got the players now, we've got a three-day camp, we're a little bit ahead of the curve getting onto the plane and we've got a fit squad. So I suppose you can take it either way.
“Everyone is in contention, especially the guys who are playing well and Jack is obviously one of them. He's in a very competitive position, and you look across at who has been selected, I don't think you could complain about any of those who have been selected either.”