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Cubs' title no portent for Ireland: Hansen

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/11/2016 Angelo Risso

The Chicago Cubs may have broken a 108-year drought to win the World Series on Wednesday, but All Blacks boss Steve Hansen isn't tipping Ireland to follow suit.

The two rugby sides will take to Soldier Field on Saturday with a heavily lopsided record in favour of the Kiwis, who have won 27 and drawn one of their 28 Tests against the Irish.

Chicago will host the neutral Test, a city that has been seized by baseball fever in the past seven days as their Cubs pushed for a hex-breaking World Series title.

Yet Hansen, who oversaw New Zealand's last-gasp win over Ireland three years ago, brushed off suggestions the Irish would come in for a little luck too.

"I listened to (Cubs coach) Joe Madden say that curses and such aren't what makes sport, it's actually the process of getting across the line," Hansen said.

Hansen has picked a much-changed line-up for Saturday's Test, most notably with stalwart Jerome Kaino moving from blindside to lock alongside Patrick Tuipulotu.

Highlanders loosie Liam Squire steps into Kaino's spot at blindside, while the recuperated Sam Cane resumes his place in the No.7 jumper.

Star halfback Aaron Smith also returns to the fold after an incident in a Christchurch Airport toilet, while George Moala has been named at centre over Anton Lienert-Brown.

Hansen expected Ireland to deploy their kicking game to full effect through star playmaker Johnny Sexton, and bring the game to the world champions' faces.

They had been unfortunate in last year's World Cup, falling out in the quarter-finals to Argentina, but bounced back with positives displays in their June series in South Africa.

However the Irish head into Saturday's match burdened by their own injury worries, with loose forwards Sean O'Brien and Peter O'Mahony unavailable.

"They maximise what they've got, play to their strengths and analyse the opposition and have a really clear idea of how they want to play against them," Hansen said.

"They've got variation in their kicking game and their chase for their kicks is good, they'll compete in the air, they score a lot of points off their lineouts."

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