Back from injury ... prop Mike Ross at Ireland training in Christchurch. Photo: Getty Images
CHRISTCHURCH: Ireland have beefed up their front row with the return of tighthead prop Mike Ross in one of four changes to their starting line up for the second Test against the All Blacks here on Saturday.
Ross, a robust scrummager, missed the 42-10 loss in the first Test because of a hamstring injury leaving Declan Fitzpatrick to make his debut against the All Blacks 84-cap veteran Tony Woodcock.
Fitzpatrick has been dropped back to the bench for the second Test as has left wing Simon Zebo who also made his debut last week.
The other changes in the team announced on Thursday see Gordon D'Arcy restored to inside centre in place of the injured Keith Earls and Kevin McLaughlin, comes off the bench to take over from Peter O'Mahony at blindside flanker.
D'Arcy's selection reunites him with captain Brian O'Driscoll to start their 48th international as Ireland's midfield partnership.
Ireland forwards coach and former Springbok Gert Smal expects a vastly improved performance from his pack for the second Test against an All Blacks side he rates highly.
"They have the makings of a great side," he conceded after Ireland were trounced in the first Test.
"In saying that, we are not going to sit back and wait and see what they can do.
"Again, I think we can also play a little bit and we also showed two years ago that even with 14 men we can score two tries if we keep possession and have a go at them. That is what we are going to do on Saturday."
Ireland (15-1): Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, Andrew Trimble; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien, Kevin McLaughlin; Donnacha Ryan, Dan Tuohy; Mike Ross, Rory Best, Cian Healy. Reserves: Sean Cronin, Declan Fitzpatrick, Donncha O'Callaghan, Peter O'Mahony, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O'Gara, Simon Zebo.