Whilst we love the time of year when test match rugby rolls around, we've said many times that we are not great fans of night football in the winter months. And we're esepcially not great fans of night-time rugby in the South Island during the June to August period.
So our expectations of an open, running game in Christchurch tonight are not high. As we type this, the temperature in Christchurch is 5.5C. Tonight, it's forecast to fall to zero. And whilst we are sure that both teams will arrive at the new AMI Stadium in Addington with attacking intent, it may simply not be possible.
Nonetheless, it should be a good battle. The All Blacks will be better for the run together in Auckland last week, and as we commented when tonight's team was announced, it's great that Steve Hansen has retained essentially the same starting XV.
Ireland too will be better for their run last week. They were competitive for the first half-hour or so, but thereafter they were overrun by the All Black machine. They will not lack for courage; Irish teams seldiom do. But they were simply in a different league last Saturday night.
If the match is reduced to a forward confrontation, the All Blacks shape up pretty well. The front row is tough and experienced. Sam Whitelock has developed into an international quality lock, and Brodie Retallick has great promise. And even without Jerome Kaino, the All Black loose forwards are formidable. We would expect the All Black forwards to be able to create enough of a platform to let Daniel Carter control the game.
One thing that AMI Stadium will not lack tonight is atmosphere. The match sold out in minutes. And the nature of the new stadium really brings the crowd into play. At the Stormers v Crusaders match we went to in April, we were seated about eight rows back, and just a few metres away from the touchline. It is a terrific rugby stadium, and we hope that when decisions are made over the future of the damaged AMI Stadium at Lancaster Park, a similar template is followed. A football-only ground is the way to go, in our ever-humble opinion.