Schmidt brushes off favourites tag

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Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has laughed off claims from Steve Hansen that New Zealand will be underdogs when the two sides meet on Saturday.

Hansen suggested Ireland's 40-29 victory over the All Blacks in Chicago two weeks ago gives them the advantage ahead of the clash at the Aviva Stadium.

It is not something Schmidt believes, though, stating his side's first win over New Zealand in 111 years could be considered a mere "hiccup" for the world champions.

"I would suggest that he [Hansen] should become a bookmaker," Schmidt told a media conference. "I think we're about 6-1.

"We are probably better than the 12 or 13-1 we were in Chicago so maybe comparatively maybe we're a bit better off, but you certainly wouldn't put us as favourites.

"A team that have won 18 in a row against some of the best teams in the world, and done it by some margin, I think everyone is due a hiccup. 

"I felt we deserved to get our nose in front, the players rolled their sleeves up and hung in and managed to protect the lead we had. But I don't think they will afford us any head starts this weekend."

Schmidt has kept faith with the majority of the starting XV that won at Soldier Field, with flanker Sean O'Brien the only new face due to the knee ligament injury sustained by Jordi Murphy.

"I don't think we've got that many new tricks," the coach added. "We play in a similar sort of rhythm with minor amendments week-to-week pretty much since the World Cup.

"I don't think there will be anything massively different. We'll see what sort of conditions there are to influence how we play.

"We'll see what sort of tricks Steve Hansen has up his sleeve, a couple of boys at six foot, seven inches aren't bad ones to pull out, especially at the quality they are. That's going to be a huge challenge for us.

"We just want to try and focus on our own performance and try to use Chicago as a reference point to progress further."

Ireland's selection means captain Rory Best will win his 99th cap when he leads the side out in Dublin.

 

Ireland team: Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner, CJ Stander, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Josh van der Flier, Kieran Marmion, Paddy Jackson, Garry Ringrose.