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Ireland v New Zealand Paul O’Connell hails ‘incredible’ potential of forward pack ahead of crunch Aviva clash

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Ireland's forwards coach Paul O'Connell

Ireland's forwards coach Paul O'Connell

Ireland's forwards coach Paul O'Connell

Paul O’Connell believes the potential of Ireland’s new-look dynamic pack is “incredible”, as Ireland get set to face New Zealand in Saturday’s hugely-anticipated sold-out clash.

O’Connell, Ireland’s forwards coach, will be tasked with helping to devise a game-plan good enough to withstand the inevitable step-up in class against the All Blacks this weekend.

Gavin Coombes will not be part of O’Connell’s plans, as the Munster No 8 continues his recovery from illness, and while Robbie Henshaw (foot) will return to training this week, the influential Lions centre remains in a race to be fit in time.

Ireland’s pack delivered an outstanding performance in dismantling Japan last weekend, with O’Connell hoping it provides the springboard leading into a much tougher test.

“The potential in the forward group that we have is incredible,” O’Connell said.

“You want guys just below them saying ‘I have to train the house down because when I get my crack I have to perform. That’s great for any forward.

“The emergence of a few young players at the moment, older players looking after their bodies and staying in shape to allow them to keep playing has been great for us.

“It’s an exciting time, training is exciting for us. As a forwards coach it’s hard to pick a starting pack, you’ve (got) very competitive training sessions.

“Very often, it’s the work you do away from us is what will get you picked.

“You want them in here competing with each other, seeing what the standard is and knowing what they have to do when they go away from us so they come back to us and get picked.

“It’s a dynamic pack, big guys, but they also handle the ball incredibly well. They’re quick to get off the floor, it’s an exciting group to coach and be involved in.”

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