Pressure on Henry's All Blacks mounts

The All Blacks and coach Graham Henry's quest for redemption following their rugby World Cup failure starts against Ireland today with Henry talking of extraordinary pressure to win.

A new-look All Blacks side will take the field charged with defending an unbeaten record against the Irish in their first outing since being eliminated by France in the World Cup last October.

In a country fanatical about rugby, an All Blacks loss is not tolerated by the public, and Henry knows they must make a winning start to 2008 to help dim the memories of a disappointing 2007.

"You just can't afford to lose rugby Test matches in rugby World Cups without creating a huge reaction in this country, and that causes pressure for sure," he said.

"I guess the only way that will change is if this side plays particularly well [against Ireland] and continue to play well."

The pressure on New Zealand has not been lost on the Irish who are talking confidently of creating history. "If we get our game right we have as good a chance as ever," said Ireland skipper Brian O'Driscoll. "We certainly have the fire power and the capabilities."