YOU HAVE TO hand it to the New Zealand Rugby Union – they certainly know how to look after sports reporters.
Steve Hansen named his squad to face Ireland for the upcoming three-Test series on Sunday afternoon and was joined by the bulk of his 30-man squad.
The new All Blacks head coach was flanked by Ian Foster and Grant Fox as he named a squad containing familiar and word-class names such as captain Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Ma’a Nonu and Dan Carter.
Hansen said he expected a ‘robust challenge’ from Ireland and noted the Heineken Cup exploits of Ulster and Leinster this season. He added:
We all saw what they could do at the World Cup last year when they beat Australia at Eden Park. That was one of the best games in the entire tournament.
The Irish will need a similar set of performances if they are to have any chance of beating New Zealand for the first time in their history.
After the broadcast section of the announcement was over, Hansen and his fellow selectors worked the room at the Heritage Hotel in downtown Auckland.
Here come the All Blacks
Richie McCaw then led in his teammates and they sat patiently for more than an hour and fielded questions from all-comers.
Considering that I was three minutes away from missing my flight down to New Zealand on Thursday morning, I was grateful to be drinking filtered coffee in their presence.
Two 7am flights to Frankfurt out of Dublin Airport had me queuing in Terminal 1 then sprinting to Terminal 2 and breathlessly checking into my Aer Lingus flight.
That will teach me to take a Xanax an hour before take-off.
My schedule saw me take the third leg of my 34-hour journey to Auckland from Singapore with the Irish squad, who had flown in from London.
First off the plane
Moments after landing in Auckland and I ambled towards passport control alongside Connacht prop Brett Wilkinson, while Simon Zebo and Peter O’Mahony led the charge.
The Munster men are on their first tour with the senior squad so their eagerness to get out onto New Zealand soil was understandable.
The squad took their first training session out on Auckland’s North Shore on Sunday morning and will meet the press on Monday afternoon (New Zealand time).
The weather across the country has been unseasonably hot but Dan Carter joked that Ireland better not get too used to it, especially by the time they play in Christchurch on 16 June.
* You can follow all the latest news, comments and updates from the Irish camp by following me @patmccarry on Twitter and by checking in regularly at TheScore.ie.