Below is Devlin's prediction, the actual team is here .
Here it is, a day earlier than expected - the All Blacks team to face Ireland, the first XV of the new regime, the first to grace Eden Park since that epic WC win over France seven months ago.
As per instructions, (ie. new coach, first test, must-win), I've (deliberately) erred on the side of caution and, although selecting two debutants, have gone for a side dominated by the been-there-done-that department.
Fullback - Israel Dagg. Unquestionably the No. 1 No. 15 in NZ, Izzy was a WC sensation. Solid defence, maturity in decision-making, incisive on attack, he's already a bona fide matchwinner (eg. WC semifinal v Aussies). Incredible to think we only recently lost a centurion, yet so seamlessly have found another champion custodian.
Wings - Hosea Gear/Julian Savea. Being the first test of the year, and knowing how traditionally slow we start, JS could play a whole half of footy starved of any action, thus there's virtually no risk in selecting him to debut. In time, the ABs will expect to dominate this match and provide front-foot ball. When that happens, don't be surprised if many of the initial planned moves involve using his pace and bulk head-on at the Irish midfield. Hosea, meanwhile, didn't rip up his Japanese contract on a whim - the guy's a dead-set cert.
Midfield - Nonu/Smith. Smith's another cert. Ma'a, you may argue, but form/no form/patchy form/questionable form, these two are the incumbents. They've played more tests than any other AB midfield combo and bring strength, know-how, familiarity, poise and (believe me) when it counts, all the form we know is there cos we've seen it so often before. Full confidence in Nonu.
First-five - DC. He was banging 'em from 50m last weekend, Dan's back and kicking. Might I say what a treat for AB fans, it is too. Never forget what a brilliant player the man is. The sooner he's running the cutter, the sooner I let out a loud "Aaaahh". Confidence, class, DC is No. 10.
Halfback - Piri. Listen, he wouldn't be there if he wasn't going to play. Forget the speculation and/or smoke screens, the firstt test of the new era is all about imposing our will on whoever the opposition might be. Messrs Hansen/Foster/McLean/Fox will want the tried and true to control our ball, and that means Piri at 9 and DC at 10. Expect Aaron Smith to replace Weepu, scoreline permitting, around the 55-60 min mark.
Loosies - McCaw and Read pick themselves. In fact, who'd be brave enough to tell either they're "resting" this one? The man to replace Kaino is where the debate lies. On form and in combo, I'm picking Adam Thomson. His S15 form has been focussed and physical, but test rugby will mean an even tighter approach. Victor Vito will cover all three positions from the bench.
Locks - Sam Whitelock is the best big man we have and alongside him, I'm going for Brodie Retallick. The Chiefs giant's had a great season - he's rough, rugged, does everything you want in the engine room and (most importantly) stays put! The only time locks should be in the backline is never. Plus, with Paul O'Connell unavailable, this is the perfect time to give BR his stripes.
Props - Let's be honest, what would I know? All I can say is I love Tony Woodcock and whatever Franks fellah runs on, the other one will have to be lassooed and muzzled on the pine til he gets his turn. More power to the prime beef, these guys are worth their weight in fillet!
Hooker - Andrew Hore. Kevvy injured, no contest, Horey starts.
So there you are, my first run-on XV - Dagg, Gear, Savea, Smith, Nonu, Carter, Weepu, Read, McCaw (capt), Thomson, S Whitelock, Retallick, Woodcock, Franks, Hore.
Argue away if you must, but remember the "official" lineup isn't due til tomorrow and may ever differ slightly.
In the meantime, I'm backing my boys at 13 plus.