All Blacks look to seal series
Several members of the All Blacks were woken up by a smaller quake earlier this week.
WELLINGTON - Several members of the All Blacks were given a timely reminder of the devastating earthquake that destroyed much of central Christchurch last year when a smaller quake woke them up earlier this week as they began preparations for their second test against Ireland.
"It can't have been too bad, I never woke up," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, a Christchurch resident used to the aftershocks following a devastating earthquake last year, told Fairfax Media after the 4.2-magnitude shake early on Tuesday.
"But those that don't live in Christchurch got a nice welcome and ... all the Christchurch people were having a joke about that with guys diving round bedrooms and whatnot."
The earthquake reminded many of the shallow, 6.3-magnitude earthquake on Feb. 22, 2011 which destroyed much of the central city, damaged infrastructure in surrounding suburbs and killed almost 200 people in New Zealand's second largest city.
The main rugby venue of Lancaster Park was also badly affected by the earthquake and World Cup organisers were forced to strip the city of their seven matches in last year's global showcase.
As such, the match on Saturday will be played at a much smaller redeveloped site on Rugby League Park, which will be used by the Super Rugby Canterbury Crusaders and All Blacks for at least the next five years as the local council rebuilds infrastructure and sporting facilities.
The 21,000-capacity stadium has sold out, reflecting the desire of the locals to embrace international rugby again after they were starved of chances in the global festival that embraced the rugby-mad country late last year.
The off-field distractions aside, Hansen hammered home the expectations he wanted from the world champions, making just one enforced change to his starting lineup from the team who won the first test 42-10 last week at Eden Park as they seek to wrap up the three-game series with a match to spare.
Adam Thomson has moved into the starting lineup as blindside flanker after Victor Vito suffered a knee injury in Auckland.
"We've also had the strategy that we want this team to grow, not just with one performance," Hansen told reporters in Christchurch on Thursday.
"We just wanted to roll it over and give these guys another week together and just keep building (the combinations)."
Thomson's elevation has created an opportunity for Sam Cane to win his first test cap from the bench.
Cane would be the fourth player to make their All Blacks debut in the first two tests of the season, after Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick and Julian Savea all contributed to the emphatic victory last week.
The experienced core of the All Blacks, 12 of whom were World Cup winners, helped Hansen's era get off to a winning start and dispel any fears of a World Cup hangover.
The New Zealand side soaked up the pressure from the visitors, waited for their opportunities and then struck from depth as their speed, abrasiveness and ability to offload in tackles and break the Irish defensive line was evident.
Ireland, who had been combative in the opening 20 minutes last week in Auckland, were angry they had not been able to maintain that intensity after Savea's first of three tries gave the All Blacks a 16-3 lead they steadily built on.
Ireland coach Declan Kidney made four changes to his starting side. Tighthead prop Mike Ross returns from a hamstring injury to boost the front row, while Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll are reunited in the midfield after Keith Earls was ruled out with injury.
New Zealand - 15-Israel Dagg, 14-Zac Guildford, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Sonny Bill Williams, 11-Julian Savea, 10-Dan Carter, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 6-Adam Thomson, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Andrew Hore, 1-Tony Woodcock
Ireland - 15-Rob Kearney, 14-Fergus McFadden, 13-Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 12-Gordon D'Arcy, 11-Andrew Trimble, 10-Jonathan Sexton, 9-Conor Murray; 8-Jamie Heaslip, 7-Sean O'Brien, 6-Kevin McLaughlin, 5-Donnacha Ryan, 4-Dan Touhy, 3-Mike Ross, 2-Rory Best, 1-Cian Healy