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So what do the Aussies think of Ireland ahead of the November Internationals?

We got the view from down under.

Brian O'Driscoll and Luke Marshall tackle Israel Folau.
Brian O'Driscoll and Luke Marshall tackle Israel Folau.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IRELAND HAVE HAD a good, but not great, first year under coach Joe Schmidt, with perhaps the biggest advance being the consistency that they are playing with.

Post BOD

They face the mammoth task over the next three games of identifying a successor to Brian O’Driscoll. With only ten tests until the World Cup Schmidt needs a solution to his centre pairing and fast.

The two favourites in the squad are young gun Robbie Henshaw and new Irish man Jared Payne.

Henshaw is more a modern type of centre with physicality and pace but his decision making leaves a lot to be desired at times. Payne is more of a distributor, who runs intelligent lines and has a good kicking game. At Heineken Cup level his decision making in defense is almost always immaculate.

Injuries

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Every side has them, Ireland just seem to have a truckload at the moment.

They are very light at tighthead, lock and flanker without even mentioning the loss of Cian Healy. Healy’s absence along with Sean O’Brien is massive because of the amount of ball they carry for Ireland.

Both are very destructive ball carriers and the likes of Jack McGrath, Jamie Heaslip and Rhys Ruddock will be expected to step up here.

They are also missing three locks that all would have been within a shout of a starting place. Expect to see an exciting prospect from Munster, Dave Foley, debut here at some stage.

Attacking Play

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A lot of Ireland’s success in the last year has centered upon a rock solid set piece and an unstoppable rolling maul.

They need to vary their attacking game more against more aggressive defences and get a bit more creativity into their play.

The expected selection of Simon Zebo should help here; Ireland looked a bit blunt when they put the ball through the hands at times and Zebo could add a bit of X-factor into the backline.

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Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Conor Murray – Murray is now the best scrum half in Europe; Ireland will need him at top form to take down the Boks and the Wallabies. He’s produced a couple of really good performances against New Zealand now he needs to step up against the other members of the south’s big three.

Chris Henry – Ireland’s openside will be crucial in how they play the game. Henry had a very good Six Nations and will want to cement himself in the jersey. His work on the deck is very good and he has become one of the best at spoiling opposition ball. Needs to carry more and it will be interesting to see his impact here.

Simon Zebo – Some felt he was unfairly maligned in Schmidt’s first year. Injuries have now made him a certainty to start in Irelands first game. He could be the X-factor that Ireland need in their backline however he needs to keep his defensive work rate high.

Expectations

Ireland have yet to beat a side ranked above them under Schmidt, although it is conceivable they could get to a World Cup semi-final without doing so, they need to knock off quality opposition this November.

With a fully fit squad Ireland would be after three wins, however factoring in their injuries I’ll back them for two.

Reproduced with permission from Green & Gold Rugby.

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