Grand Slam champs Ireland look to repeat 1979 feats in Australia

The Wallabies are planning to use their exciting backline stars to run at Joe Schmidt’s side.

Murray Kinsella reports from Brisbane

THOUGH IRELAND HAVE tasted victory in three of their four last meetings with Australia, it’s worth noting that they haven’t won a Test against the Wallabies on Australian soil since 1979.

They did it twice that year, with Ollie Campbell famously taking over from Tony Ward at out-half to lead Ireland to their one and only series success Down Under.

Ireland have won just 11 of their 33 total meetings with the Wallabies and even the fine recent record comes with an asterisk.

A view of the Irish captains run Ireland at their captain's run in Suncorp Stadium yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The November 2016 and November 2014 victories in Dublin were squeezed out on three-point margins, while the 2011 World Cup win was also relatively tight as Ireland deservedly won 15-6.

In November 2013, the Wallabies had a comprehensive 32-15 victory in Dublin, a fine example of how they can be such a lethal force.

The teams that will fight it out in the first of a three-Test series in Brisbane today are, of course, quite different and though Ireland headed into this tour in a stronger position than ever after their Grand Slam, the expectation is that this will be tight once again.

Interestingly, Ireland have a surprising face at out-half for today’s clash [KO 11.05am Irish time, Sky Sports] in the shape of Joey Carbery, who slots into the 10 shirt as Johnny Sexton offers cover from the bench.

It’s not quite Campbell replacing Ward as the first-choice but it could have a telling effect on the series. If Carbery’s undoubted ability is matched by good decision-making and composure, his performance would go a long way towards Ireland starting on a winning note.

The Munster-bound out-half’s inclusion is one of six changes to Ireland’s team – Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, John Ryan, Jordi Murphy and Robbie Henshaw also come in – but even with a fair amount of continuity from the Grand Slam win over England, Ireland understand that picking up where they left off will be tough.

“We had eight or nine weeks of a build-up to that game and that certainly stands to you,” said Peter O’Mahony, who takes over the captaincy from the injured Rory Best. “It’s a standard we’ve set but it will be difficult.

“We haven’t had a huge amount of time together, but you look at the way the provinces have performed together over the last couple of months, the way Leinster have gone, you just want to get back into that flow.

Joe Schmidt with Keith Earls Joe Schmidt talks to Keith Earls. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We spoke about it a couple of years ago, when we needed to talk about it, guys just need to kick into Irish mode the day we arrive into the camp. That’s something that we pride ourselves on.”

The Wallabies’ challenge is to get at Ireland early on and show off a skillset that is rather different to what Joe Schmidt’s team regularly face in the Six Nations.

Individuals of the attacking quality of Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Marika Koroibete and Bernard Foley allow the Wallabies to play with great width and their intention is to run at Ireland from all over the pitch.

“We’d be silly not to run the ball with some of the strike power we’ve got,” said Wallabies captain Michael Hooper.

“We’ve got a really fit team, forwards who want to work and get over the advantage line. We’ve a mobile back row and we’ve seen during the Super Rugby season some of the damage that the backs can do and some of the form that our playmakers are in.

“We’ve got to be smart in how we do it. Some of this stuff needs a little bit of a tweak sometimes in how we relieve pressure at times because we know that the Irish are good – they build pressure.”

The Australians pose a different challenge and this Ireland squad is considerably stronger, but memories of Ireland’s tour of South Africa in 2016 have resurfaced this week for Schmidt’s players.

There was a successful trip to the US and Japan last summer as Schmidt built depth, but the manner in which Ireland went 1-0 up in South Africa before going on to lose the series sticks in the craw.

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“Definitely for me because I was involved,” said centre Robbie Henshaw, who partners Bundee Aki today.

RUGBY WALLABIES TRAINING Israel Folau will be a major danger to Ireland. Source: AAP/PA Images

“It hasn’t been spoken about but we know in our heads there were chances there to win that series. I suppose you remember it for what you do – we won the first Test and then we were knocked off in the end in the last two.”

With Grand Slam winners Rob Kearney, Jacob Stockdale and Keith Earls in the back three, a powerful midfield, Conor Murray lending the exciting Carbery a helping hand in the halfbacks, Murphy joining O’Mahony and CJ Stander in the back row, James Ryan and Iain Henderson forming an explosive second row, and McGrath, Herring and John Ryan out to prove a point in the scrum, there are many reasons for Ireland to be confident. Their bench is pretty handy too.

Ireland’s current run of 12 consecutive victories and this season’s Grand Slam have set a standard they must strive to maintain under pressure in Australia.

“The expectation on this team is going to be way higher now after a particularly good year with the Grand Slam and in Leinster as well,” said Henshaw. “Everyone is looking at us as the top tier team in Europe.

“It’s a massive opportunity, [IRFU president] Phil Orr reminded us that he was the captain of the last team to win a series here in 1979.

“It’s a chance for us to try and back that up. It’s going to be incredibly tough and we’re going to have to deal with a lot of pressure on our shoulders.”


15. Isreal Folau
14. Marika Koroibete
13. Samu Kerevi
12. Kurtley Beale
11. Dane Haylett-Petty
10. Bernard Foley
9. Will Genia

1. Scott Sio
2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa
3. Sekope Kepu
4. Izack Rodda
5. Adam Coleman
6. David Pocock
7. Michael Hooper (captain)
8. Caleb Timu


16. Tolu Latu
17. Tom Robertson
18. Taniela Tupou
19. Rob Simmons
20. Lukhan Tui
21. Pete Samu
22. Nick Phipps
23. Reece Hodge


15. Rob Kearney
14. Keith Earls
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Joey Carbery
9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath
2. Rob Herring
3. John Ryan
4. Iain Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Jordi Murphy
8. CJ Stander


16. Sean Cronin
17. Cian Healy
18. Tadhg Furlong
19. Quinn Roux
20. Jack Conan
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Johnny Sexton
23. Jordan Larmour

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen [SARU].

- This article was first published at 1am and then updated at 9am.

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Murray Kinsella

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