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Fitzpatrick Nervous About Saturday’s Test

18th June 2005 By Munster Rugby

Fitzpatrick Nervous About Saturday’s Test

Sean Fitzpatrick, has admitted that he is nervous about the All Blacks’ prospects in the opening Test and thinks Clive Woodward will be pretty happy with where his team are at right now

The legendary Sean Fitzpatrick, has admitted that he is nervous about the All Blacks’ prospects in the opening Test and thinks Clive Woodward will be pretty happy with where his team are at right now.

In his column in the Herald on Sunday Fitzpatrick says, “We are all in danger of getting a bit too carried away with the All Blacks’ chances against the Lions in the first test. I think New Zealanders are getting a bit too confident and I think Sir Clive Woodward has been doing exactly what he said he’d do.

“He’s been making sure that his players all get an opportunity to press for test spots and, if that has drawn criticism because of the effect on his team’s play and rhythm, it has nevertheless enabled Woodward to keep his cards close to his chest and build towards the test match. That’s the beauty of it for touring teams, they are able to ask the question of their players on a regular basis. Our guys don’t get the question asked until Saturday.

“I think Woodward knows exactly who his test team will be. All right, they’ve had a few problems but I think he will be pretty happy with where they are as a team.

“We saw against Wellington that they have changed their game plan. They played Neil Back for the first time and there is no doubt he is a player who gives them the ability to compete at the breakdown. They also threw more numbers into the breakdown.

“They have potential to frustrate and nullify the All Blacks. They are good defensively and Wellington showed that the Lions are most likely to play a tight, squeezing, forward game, kicking for territory and kicking the goals – controlling the game that way. That’s what test rugby is all about.

“That’s what a lot of New Zealanders are forgetting. Test rugby is different. If you have a good front five, you can compete. The Lions will have Julian White, Shane Byrne and Gethin Jenkins in the front row although I would be pretty certain that we’ll also see heavyweights Andy Sheridan and Steve Thompson at some stage during the match, if not at the start. That is a front row which can compete. At lock, it’ll be Paul O’Connell and one other from Simon Shaw, Ben Kay, Danny Grewcock or maybe even Donncha O’Callaghan.

“The back row will be Martin Corry who can carry the ball up well, Back and Richard Hill – although he was a bit quiet last weekend while Simon Easterby played really well and threw his hat into the ring as well.

“In the backline, I think Dwayne Peel at halfback, Jonny Wilkinson, Brian O’Driscoll and Josh Lewsey at fullback are certainties and I fancy Tom Shanklin – a big strong runner and defender – might get the nod at second five-eighths.

“That’s a strong side and one which is quite capable of squeezing the All Blacks at scrum, lineout and maybe other phases of the game. They showed enough against Wellington to suggest that they think, in their own minds, that they will be competitive – and the All Blacks traditionally do not start very well.

“In addition, I am a little alarmed by there being no Marty Holah and no specialist No 7 back-up and no Jono Gibbes. I would have thought Gibbes would have added a lot – an extra lineout option and a bit of steel. I am also uncomfortable with there being no specialist goalkicking back-up and always remember Grant Fox’s kick to win the first test in 1993.

“Having said all that, I think it is a fantastic All Black side and a smart coaching panel and I still think the All Blacks will win the series.

“But I’m still nervous about Saturday.”

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