IRELAND COACH JOE Schmidt will have been an interested spectator as Australia were beaten 20-13 by England at Twickenham on Saturday.
The Wallabies are second in the November schedule for Ireland, with the clash at the Aviva Stadium set for Saturday the 16th of November.
Ewan McKenzie’s men enjoyed a decent start against the English, but their second half performance was very poor and they showed a lack of composure under pressure. Here are five things Schmidt will have learned from the game.
1. Will Genia is in bad form
The scrum-half looks like a different player from the one who caused the Lions such problems during the summer, and not just because of the David Brent-esque beard he’s currently sporting. Genia is clearly lacking in confidence and it’s not difficult to imagine that he is carrying some sort of injury at present.
Gone is the decisive decision-making, busy sniping around the fringes and his usual manner of commanding his forwards around the pitch. Instead, the 25-year-old was hesitant and quiet. Genia possesses far too much ability to be considered anything less than a threat to Ireland, but he is struggling for form at the moment.
2. Australia’s exit strategy offers chances
The Wallabies conceded from a block-down try close to their own line on Saturday, not the first time they have done so this season. There is a general lack of composure in these situations from the Australians, with Genia’s current lack of confidence not helping.
Chris Robshaw’s try for England came from a block down. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland.
The All Blacks targeted Ewan McKenzie’s side in this area during the Rugby Championship and Ireland could do the same. Block-down tries may not be the most glamorous way of scoring, but it’s definitely worth applying serious pressure to the Australians when they attempt to clear their lines.
3. The Wallabies scrum can be targeted
The scrum has long been a major weakness for the Wallabies, and Ireland have done a job on them in this area before. There was a sneaking suspicion that the changed laws at scrum time might benefit an Aussie front row who had always struggled with the ‘hit’, but that has been totally quashed.
YouTube credit: officialRFUTV
England won at least three penalties, as well as a couple of free kicks, from scrums and the Aussies looked unable to cope at times. There was certainly a sense that Mako Vunipola was not driving straight on the loose head side for England, but the experienced Aussies should be able to deal with that themselves. Cian Healy and Mike Ross should be planning to make big gains for Ireland at the scrum.
4. Israel Folau is going to be hard to stop
While the 24-year-old didn’t get a chance to fully explode into life at Twickenham, he did manage to show his quality in brief flashes. It was Folau’s outside break that got Australia over the gain-line in the build-up to Matt Toomua’s first half try. There were other bursts of power too, while the Waratahs fullback also displayed his ability in the air.
Look at the size of his legs! ©INPHO/Billy Stickland.
Folau is easily the Wallabies’ most dangerous attacking threat and Ireland are going to have quite the job on their hands to stop him. Even going low on him is no guarantee of a completed tackle, as his balance is phenomenal. Folau is still learning the positional skills required to play fullback at the highest level, but he has very few weaknesses.
5. The press are on the Aussies’ backs
Having surrendered a 13-6 half time lead and failed to score a single point in the second half, the Wallabies were unsurprisingly criticised by the media back home. The Sydney Morning Herald said, “There is blood in the water on this tour and every side in Europe knows it,” while The Australian commented that McKenzie’s men must “find a way through the rest of what is shaping up as a very treacherous tour.”
It remains to be seen whether the Wallabies can come back from this blow against England, with their match against Italy next weekend presenting a chance to do so. The criticism in the newspapers down under may drive them to better performances.
Do Ireland have anything to fear against an Australian team who are finding wins hard to come by? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this Wallabies team?
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