New Zealand head coach Ian Foster insists there is no point in discussing whether Irish trio Bundee Aki, James Lowe and Jamison Gibson-Park have ever been good enough to represent the All Blacks.
The three native Kiwis, who qualified for their adopted country on residency rules, are set to face their country of birth on Saturday afternoon at a sold-out Aviva stadium in Dublin.
Connacht and British and Irish Lions center Aki played when Ireland beat New Zealand in November 2018, while the duo of Leinster Lowe and Gibson-Park prepare to face the triple world champions for the first time. times.
âI guess they’re Kiwis in a way, but they’re Irish now,â Foster said.
âIt was three people who made a decision, they are playing for Ireland and what will be and what could have been is almost irrelevant.
âToday the rules are the rules and these three – like a number of others – made decisions and they decided to be Irish.
âThere’s no point in speculating whether they would have been good enough to be successful in New Zealand or not.
“I don’t really want to spend time on this because they were the one who made the call.”
Aki, 31, has made 32 appearances in Ireland since changing international allegiance in 2017 and touring with Warren Gatland’s Lions during the summer.
Scrum-half Gibson-Park and winger Lowe, both 29, qualified for Ireland last fall and won 11 and seven caps respectively.
All three were on the scoresheet last weekend as the Irish prepared for New Zealand to visit with a landslide nine-try win over Japan.
Foster believes Andy Farrell’s men are getting more ambitious with the ball and now have bigger attacking threats.
âThey are well organized, they are physical, they clearly understand their roles and they play accordingly,â said Foster.
âI think that aspect has not changed and it is a positive thing for Irish rugby. They have been a quality team this year and they are improving.
âBut we’re seeing an expansion and ambition of what they want to do with the ball and they seem more comfortable taking the bigger opportunities and playing comfortably like that.
“Thank you to them and that just means you have to open your eyes and be aware that they have more threats of attack than they possibly would have had 24 months ago.”
After naming a heavily modified lineup for last weekend’s victory in Italy, Foster has brought back his star names.
The New Zealand squad has 14 players who started the crushing 54-16 victory over Wales a fortnight ago with winger Sevu Reece being the sole survivor of Rome.
The All Blacks – who beat Ireland in the 2019 World Cup quarter-finals – have lost just two of the previous 32 meetings between the nations, although one of those setbacks was a 16-9 loss on their last visit to Lansdowne Road three. years ago.
âThe relevance of 2018 is that we don’t like to lose,â Foster said.
âWe’ve felt that with the teams here before, is that they have big crowds, excited crowds that really support the team and feed off any feelings of weakness or hesitation among visiting teams.
âWe have an Irish team who are going to try to put pressure on us and really put this crowd behind them.
“The fact that the Aviva hasn’t been full too many times over the past two years with Covid, I would say noise levels will probably be around 110%, if there is such a thing.”