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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 27 June, 2019
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Ireland's attention turns swiftly to visit of Michael Cheika's Wallabies

Joe Schmidt and his men are looking to make it three wins out of three this month.

Schmidt will be going all out for a 100% record this month.
Schmidt will be going all out for a 100% record this month.
Image: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

JOB DONE AGAINST Georgia, Ireland’s attention has turned swiftly to the visit of Michael Cheika’s Wallabies to Dublin.

Yesterday’s encounter at the Aviva Stadium was a worthwhile exercise for a number of Irish players who impressed, but there was an understandable contrast between the whole occasion and that around the South Africa clash a week earlier.

As Ireland look to make it a perfect three November wins from three on Saturday, the intensity, quality and excitement is likely to be ramped right up there again.

Cheika, a Heineken Cup champion with Leinster, will be overseeing just his third Test match as the Wallabies’ head coach this weekend, and there may not be a better time for Ireland to face them.

Not that Joe Schmidt would ever admit as much.

It’s hard to prepare for a team that have had a change of coach,” says Irish rugby’s favourite Kiwi. “We’ve seen a few things that they’re doing differently in the last couple of games. It’s a little bit difficult to assess them at the moment.”

One thing that is a given in any of Cheika’s teams is work rate and mindset, something Schmidt has already seen in the Australian’s “workaholic defence” during their wins over the Barbarians and Wales, as well as in Saturday’s defeat to France.

Rugby Union - Dove Men Series 2014 - Wales v Australia - Milliennium Stadium Cheika has made notable changes to the Wallabies' game plan already.

That said, there have been structural malfunctions as Cheika has looked to shift the manner in which the Wallabies defend. Schmidt and his team of analysts will have been taking detailed notes.

While the debate around who exactly Joe Schmidt should select for this weekend, particularly in midfield, is likely to be lively, Ireland’s head coach indicates that he is unsure of how Cheika will play his hand.

“One of the things that will be interesting to see is the composition of their team,” admits Schmidt. “With Kurtley Beale arriving, Bernard Foley having played right through so far, [Nick] Phipps having played right through so far – it’s a tough place to go, Stade de France, and back up the next week.

There’s no doubt they’re tough enough to do it, but Cheiks might be looking at how best he balances that.”

Schmidt has just two on-pitch sessions with his own players this week – Tuesday and Thursday – in order to put into practice any changes to the tactical blueprint that led to an impressive victory over the Springboks two weekends ago.

The arrival of Beale does potentially pose a fascinating defensive challenge for Ireland, should Cheika spring the mercurial back straight into action following his recent ban for misbehaviour.

General view of fans waving flags Ireland's fans have been treated to two wins so far in November. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

Will Schmidt call on Gordon D’Arcy’s nous in defence, or will a possible recovery for Jared Payne see him reunited with Robbie Henshaw in midfield? An important decision to be made, although ongoing injury for the Ulsterman might make the call easier.

Beale may not make the cut, but one man likely to cause Ireland serious problems is the sensational Israel Folau. The Waratahs fullback simply doesn’t appear to have bad games and threatens with every touch of the ball.

Schmidt felt France managed Folau well for much of their 29-26 victory at the Stade de France, although ‘Izzy’ still did damage.

If you don’t shut them down, they are very dangerous,” says Schmidt. “I did think that the French targeted Israel Folau and closed down his space very quickly. That didn’t allow him to get up and running, but the one time he did, he didn’t look too bad!”

Whatever about the Wallabies’ dangers, Schmidt and his players will be confident in their own ability to improve on the performance that brought success against South Africa.

The Kiwi head coach will indentify the weaknesses in Cheika’s side, and provide his men with a plan to exploit them. If Paul O’Connell, Johnny Sexton and co. can put those ideas into action, Ireland’s November will have been an extremely positive one.

Another strong finish will stand to Ireland, says try-scoring Dave Kilcoyne

In pics: Ireland score six second-half tries to thump Georgia

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Murray Kinsella

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