Kaino at lock as All Blacks brace for 'physical' Ireland


Chicago (AFP)

All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino has been moved into the second row as New Zealand brace for a physical challenge against Ireland in the opening Test of their Northern Hemisphere tour at Chicago's Soldier Field on Saturday.

Kaino, 33, will partner Patrick Tuipuloto in the second row as the world champions pack down against an Ireland team bidding to end New Zealand's 18-match winning streak.

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen reshuffled his pack after injuries and absenteeism decimated his resources at lock.

Regulars Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick are both injured while Luke Romano returned to New Zealand earlier this week after a sudden family bereavement.

The experienced Kaino, who will win his 75th cap, adds physicality to the engine room of the All Blacks pack in what Hansen is expecting to be a bruising encounter.

"The challenge we face from Ireland is a massive one," Hansen said.

"They're a well-coached team with quality players, they play to their strengths and they're very good at identifying and attacking the weaknesses of the opposition they face.

"We anticipate them using some special plays that we haven't seen before, as well as bringing a very physical, 'in-your-face' attitude and a structured kicking game."

Anticipation of the physical challenge had "created a good edge in our group", Hansen added.

"I'm most interested in seeing what we'll bring to the contest because, like us, they too have weaknesses and there'll be a need to bring our own physicality, and structures to take the game to them for the full 80 minutes."

Elsewhere, Saturday's Test sees wing Julian Savea earn his 50th cap while Scott Barrett -- younger brother of fly-half Beauden Barrett -- is poised to make his debut from the bench.

Scrum-half Aaron Smith meanwhile will return at No.9 for his first start since his suspension in October after being caught having sex with a woman in an airport toilet.

New Zealand team to play Ireland at Chicago's Soldier Field on Saturday (kick-off 2000 GMT):

New Zealand (15-1)

Ben Smith; Waisake Naholo, George Moala, Ryan Crotty, Julian Savea; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (capt), Sam Cane, Liam Squire; Jerome Kaino, Patrick Tuipulotu; Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody

Replacements: Codie Taylor, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, T.J. Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Malakai Fekitoa