Tana Umaga believes three Irish players are definitely good enough for the All Blacks 4 weeks ago

Tana Umaga believes three Irish players are definitely good enough for the All Blacks

What a shame two of them are not playing on Saturday...

Former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick does the same thing each time he has to provide expert analysis on his country, in the Sky Sports studio. 'Fitzy' gets his pen out and picks out a Best XV from both sides, putting a tick beside a player on either side as he goes from 1 to 15.

He usually ends up with the majority of his ticks beside the names of All Blacks. He may be a little biased but he also would not be far wrong.

This weekend, Fitzpatrick may have a tougher time of it as he looks down the list of New Zealand and Ireland names. With both matchday XVs confirmed a 'Best Of' of the two nations would, to our mind, be a pretty even split.

Tana Umaga, another former All Blacks captain, would not dispute that Ireland have quality across the park. However he only offered up three names when asked - on Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby - which of Joe Schmidt's players would get into the All Blacks team.

Umaga and Brian O'Driscoll were brought together by Guinness to catch up over a pint.

Tana Umaga is siding with New Zealand ahead of Saturday's game but says he would not be surprised if Ireland replicate their feat of Soldier Field, two years ago, and tip over the world number ones.

Asked for the Irish players he thinks would get into the All Blacks team, he mentioned Conor Murray first up. Umaga commented:

"We saw what he did when he came across [to New Zealand] with the Lions and what he did to the All Blacks. And that day too, just his pin-point accuracy, his competitiveness and his toughness. I love him as a defender as well, as a 9... I think he’s very important [to Ireland], obviously.

"And Johnny Sexton, the way he’s playing and the way he drives that team around. And it would be interesting to see Sean O’Brien, because we know [all about him]. It’s interesting, with Brian [O’Driscoll] we’ve been talking about it, but some players give others around them confidence when he’s on the field. And he’s definitely one of those."

Umaga, in fairness to him, was not deliberately naming injured Irishmen for this task. He offered up his trio the day before O'Brien broke his arm against Argentina and three days before Murray was definitively ruled out of the Guinness Series.