Australia v Ireland, Brisbane, June 26
Wallabies look to heap woe on Ireland
June 24, 2010
Ireland must rally themselves following back-to-back tour losses at the hands of New Zealand and the New Zealand Maori © Getty Images
Australia entertain Ireland in Brisbane on Saturday with the tourists under pressure to score a rare away success over one of the sport's giants and get their plans for Rugby World Cup 2011 back on track.
The tourists suffered a humiliating 66-28 loss at the hands of the All Blacks in their opening tour clash and were beaten again at the hands of the New Zealand Maori the following week when the second string went down 31-28 despite a much-improved performance. As a result, Declan Kidney's side are in desperate need of a morale-boosting win to prevent a disastrous tour leaving a bitter taste at the end of the season.
But if they are to add some gloss to a disappointing trip they are going to have to re-write the record books, having not tasted success in Australia - or on tour against any southern hemisphere side - since their trip down under in 1979. They can however point to their battling 20-20 draw with the Wallabies at Croke Park back in November, where Brian O'Driscoll struck in the dying moments of the game to ensure a share of the spoils, and they will require another stand-out performance from their talismanic centre if they are to upset the hosts, who are also seeking a return to winning ways.
The team have shown just glimpses of their best - notably scoring four tries as the All Blacks took their foot off the accelerator - but also their worst. No.8 Jamie Heaslip's indiscipline in the same game is set to live long in the memory for all the wrong reasons. There was more reason for hope in the loss to the Maori, a reversal that no longer looks so damaging after they added England to their list of scalps.
Australia's historic defeat to England in Sydney last weekend not only signalled their rivals' re-emergence as a major player but also underlined that fact that the Wallabies are still some way from the Rugby World Cup contenders many have hailed them as. That upset will have served as a wake-up call for Robbie Deans' side who must address their own shortcomings in what is their last outing before the start of this year's Tri-Nations. Largely outmuscled by England in back-to-back encounters, the Wallabies relied heavily on their talented back division to rescue the first Test and a similarly brave display took them close to a series victory.
Ireland have made six changes to the starting line-up that was soundly beaten by the All Blacks with Chris Henry in line to make his debut at the bae of the scrum in the absence of Heaslip. Henry will form a new-look back-row alongside Niall Ronan and Shane Jennings, who replace the injured John Muldoon (broken arm) and David Wallace, who is absent on paternity leave. In the only other change to the pack, tight-head prop Tony Buckley comes in for John Hayes who has been left out of the matchday 22.
In the backs, Jonathan Sexton's outstanding display in last Friday's narrow loss to New Zealand Maori was enough to earn him the No.10 jersey at the expense of Ronan O'Gara, who could win his 100th Ireland cap from the bench. Inside-centre Paddy Wallace also did enough to warrant selection for the tour finale ahead of Gordon D'Arcy. Meanwhile, Rhys Ruddock and Damien Varley are in line to make their Test debuts after being named on the bench.
Deans has refused to wield the axe in the wake of his side's recent loss, due partly to a worrying injury list, and as a result makes just two enforced changes to his side. Adam Ashley-Cooper replaces injured winger Digby Ioane (shoulder), while in-form half-back Luke Burgess returns at No. 9 in place of Will Genia (hand). Waratahs utility Kurtley Beale and Josh Valentine have been added to the bench and are likely to see plenty of game time.
Both sides are expected to raise their game and the contest will throw up a number of intriguing match-ups most notably at fly-half where Sexton and Australia's Quade Cooper will go head-to-head. Both are destined to be stars of next year's World Cup and will relish the opportunity to gauge their development in Saturday's clash. The ability of each to stamp his mark on the game will rely heavily on what will be a brutal forward battle and it is that contest that will be key with two talented back divisions ready to pounce on any advantage.
However, with such an abundance of game-breaking talent, it is the defensive qualities of the likes of Cooper and Sexton, O'Driscoll and Rob Horne, Rob Kearney and James O'Connor that will determine the outcome. Aside from the history books, the pressure to get things right ahead of the Tri-Nations is likely to inspire a return to top form from the Wallabies but Ireland's desire to restore some pride will also be a significant spur.
Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), B O'Driscoll capt (Leinster), P Wallace (Ulster), A Trimble (Ulster); J Sexton (Leinster), O'Leary (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), S Cronin (Connacht), T Buckley (Munster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), M O'Driscoll (Munster), N Ronan (Munster), S Jennings (Leinster), C Henry (Ulster).
Replacements: D Varley (Munster), T Court (Ulster), Tuohy (Ulster), R Ruddock (Leinster), E Reddan (Leinster), R O'Gara (Munster), G Murphy (Leicester).
Australia: J O'Connor (Western Force), D Mitchell (NSW Waratahs), R Horne (NSW Waratahs), M Giteau (ACT Brumbies), A Ashley-Cooper (ACT Brumbies), Q Cooper (Queensland Reds), L Burgess (NSW Waratahs), R Brown (Western Force), D Pocock (Western Force), R Elsom (ACT Brumbies), M Chisholm (Brumbies), D Mumm (NSW Waratahs), S Ma'afu (ACT Brumbies), S Faingaa (Queensland Reds), B Daley (Queensland Reds).
Replacements: H Edmonds (ACT Brumbies), J Slipper (Queensland Reds), M Chapman (ACT Brumbies), M Hodgson (Western Force), J Valentine (ACT Brumbies), B Barnes (NSW Waratahs), K Beale (NSW Waratahs).
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZ)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (NZ), Wayne Barnes (England) Television Match Official: TBC