BEFORE THE SERIOUS business begins at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow evening (kick-off 7pm, RTE 2), a handful of New Zealand players offered a quick diversion towards another iconic Irish sporting venue, Croke Park.
The All Black squad reconvened this afternoon for the Captain’s Run, but this morning represented one last small window to stretch the legs outside the team hotel, press the flesh and appease sponsors.
Waisake Naholo lets fly. Source: Sportsfile
While another quartet was deployed in a Grafton Street sports shop, and a contingent visited a war memorial, TJ Perenara, Patrick Tuipulotu, Waisake Naholo and Jack Goodhue had an activity to distract them on pre-matchday as they were handed camáns and sliotars and took aim at the posts at the Hill 16 end.
It was a first time hurling for All Black starting centre Goodhue, but thanks to Dublin-schooled Crusaders team-mate Oliver Jager, he had already been introduced to the necessary equipment for the small ball game.
“I didn’t get a chance (to try it out) that day, but it looked like a lot of fun. It seems a good sport, probably something I’d play if I was living over here.”
Standing 6’2″, 100kg and agile, Goodhue would undoubtedly make his presence felt in any game he turned his hand to, but growing up in the northern tip of New Zealand, other sports didn’t get much of a look-in.
All Black head coach Steve Hansen referred to the 23-year-old as a man in a hurry before handing him his first cap against France this summer. His power and slick passing have quickly taken him to the top of the ‘queue’ for Hansen’s centre slots and it’s a rise that has not fazed the Bay of Islands man.
Goodhue makes a break in Twickenham. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland
“When you’re on the field it’s like playing a game in your back yard or back in my old kid’s rugby club. It’s all instinctive, I just try to play the game I’ve been playing for the last 18 years of my life.”
Lining up opposite Goodhue in the Aviva Stadium will be the same green 13 as he faced during his run to Junior World Championship glory in 2015 – a side coached by his current Crusaders boss Scott Robertson.
When Goodhue and his twin brother Josh took on Ireland that day, Garry Ringrose, Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Porter and Joey Carbery led the opposition, with the latter kicking Ireland’s only points in a hard-hitting, forward-led 25-3 defeat to the eventual champions.
Understandably enough, Goodhue has no stand-out memories of his opposite number Ringrose from that encounter in Viadana – fixtures come thick and fast in U20 tournaments – but he has done his homework for tomorrow night’s reunion.
“I know he’s a quality player and he had a very good tournament that year,” he says in the shadow of the Cusack Stand.
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“He’s a very good attacker… I guess we’re both trying to look at the bigger picture and trying to see can we give our wingers a bit of space, create a bit of space for the team. But you don’t want to give that guy too much space.”
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Ringrose was taken relatively quickly onto the international scene after impressing through age grades and he was thrown into the deep end to win his second cap against the All Blacks in the second Test between the sides in 2016. Goodhue, though, suffered a horrific knee injury while playing for Canterbury at the tail end of 2015 and was set back by eight months on the sideline.
After his first Super Rugby season, a title-winning one, he was brought along on New Zealand’s touring squad for last year’s northern tour, though he had to wait until the third Test against France in June to win his first cap.
Garry Ringrose in training with Bundee Aki at Carton House this week. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Goodhue and Ringrose have more in common than just their U20 experience in 2015, both have had to bat back comparisons with truly great predecessors. In Ringrose’s case, it was fellow Blackrock alum Brian O’Driscoll, Goodhue’s superb range of passing have led to parallels with Conrad Smith.
Despite being so close to a Test match that will in many ways define the season, the 23-year-old has a veteran’s temperament too, cutting a relaxed figure moving around the field off Jones’ Road.
“It’s tough,” he says of his six, soon seven-cap rookie year in international rugby, “there’s a lot of pressure, a lot of good players to play against. Managing that is a bit of a skill in itself. Getting right mentally, trying to do the right preparation, getting around the coaches and trying to get on the same page.
“Ireland are number two for a reason. We’ve been preparing for this, we’ve had a good week of training. We’re not going into the game thinking we’ve got it won by any means.
“People are saying it’s Ireland’s best team ever, you can’t really compare past teams, but no doubt they’re very good and if we’re not on tomorrow it possibly won’t go our way.”
Goodhue with Dublin hurler Sean Moran in Croke Park.
World Rugby Champions, New Zealand All Blacks and Dublin GAA senior players were in Croke Park today at the AIG Heroes event, a CSR initiative to help support local grassroots communities by using their sporting partnerships with Dublin GAA and others to promote sport as a means to build self-confidence and social skills in young kids. As part of the visit to Croke Park, AIG also gifted primary schools in the area with sports equipment.