This Is Our Chance ; Leading the Way: Luke Fitzgerald (Left) Is Set to Start against the All Blacks Next Week and Michael Bradley (Right) Will Be Hoping That Brian ODriscoll (above) Will Return in Time to Begin the Pairs Promising Partnership
Byline: SHANE McGRATH
TWENTY-TWO daunting black jerseys await in Wellington in a weeks timebut Michael Bradley has given gritty backing to his Irish charges as theyprepare to fly down to New Zealand.
The first Test of their summer tour under the interim coach will see them facethe serried ranks of Graham Henrys All-Blacks, with the latter handicapped bythe persistent trickle of stellar names to the northern hemisphere. The latestis Jerry Collins, with the flanker consistently linked with moves to Munsterand Leinster among a host of Europes top clubs.
And Bradley has announced his contentment at travelling to face a team Irelandhave, famously, never beaten, all the while cautioning that they remain, forall of their departures, the worlds most feared side.
There are 10 or 11 players who have moved on since the World Cup, they haventplayed an international since then, he said in the aftermath of Ire-landsfacile win over the Barbarians in Gloucester on Tuesday evening.
They are a country of quality players. If its New Zealand we are talking about,they are extremely dangerous when the perception is that they mightnt doanything, and that they might be under pressure.
We have got to be very aware of that. Im very happy travelling out with thisgroup of players. Hopefully, we can make a statement when were out there, andmaybe improve our world ranking as well.
Bradley was, understandably reluctant to be drawn on Brian ODriscolls absencegiven the tragic circumstances surrounding his departure just hours ahead ofthe game, and admitted he did not know when his captain would return to thesquad.
Given the fortitude, energy and hunger displayed by Luke Fitzgerald at outsidecentre in Kingsholm, the possible absence of ODriscoll would be tempered by thepresence of the most exciting burgeoning talent in the national team sinceODriscoll himself nearly a decade ago.
He was the most encouraging presence on a night of limited lessons, butBradley, of course, sought to draw in pluses from throughout the team. …