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Heaslip demands flanker understudies shine

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/11/2016 Angelo Risso

Jamie Heaslip © SYLVAIN THOMAS / AFP Jamie Heaslip Ireland vice-captain Jamie Heaslip expects his side to take the loss of first-choice loosies Sean O'Brien and Peter O'Mahony in their stride against the All Blacks.

O'Brien, 29, and O'Mahony, 27, have been ruled out of Saturday's Test at Soldier Field in Chicago with hamstring and knee complaints respectively.

Ulster first-five Paddy Jackson will also miss the trip for personal reasons, leaving Kiwi-born young gun Joey Carbery as back-up for playmaker Johnny Sexton.

Iain Henderson, also a loose forward, will sit out the Test as well.

Heaslip, who lines up at No.8 for the Irish, said the side had always prided itself on joint effort and accountability.

Whoever filled in for O'Brien and O'Mahony on the sides of the scrum would be more than capable.

"Our strength has always been in the collective," the 32-year-old Heaslip said.

"That's all about unity and us as a 15, to a 23, to a 34-man squad, to our backroom staff, our families, everything."

Two possibilities to replace O'Brien and O'Mahony against the world champions are South African-born flanker CJ Stander and young gun Josh van der Flier.

Van der Flier, 23, said the All Blacks set the benchmark for rugby around the world after a flawless 2016 to date.

"They're the best team in the world and you want to be playing them as often as you can, they're the teams you want to beat," the Leinster openside said.

On Monday, opposing loose forward Jerome Kaino said he was relieved to see O'Brien miss out after tormenting the All Blacks in their last clash in Dublin three years ago.

New Zealand needed an 82nd-minute Ryan Crotty try and Aaron Cruden sideline conversion to trump the Irish 24-22 on that day and secure a perfect Test season.

Kaino did not play in Dublin but was impressed by what he saw from the Leinster stalwart.

"Looking back to 2013 when we just beat them, Sean was the spearhead of their physicality and the way they were contesting the breakdown," Kaino said.

"(But) they'll still have their leader Jamie Heaslip there, who is a major threat."

The two sides will meet again in a fortnight in Dublin.

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