Ireland look to forward power to make the difference against Australia this time around

It’s the one we’ve all been waiting for, but can Ireland exact some revenge for last year’s no-show?

THEY’RE BACK. AUSTRALIA return to the Aviva Stadium today a year on from what was supposed to be a landmark victory for Ewen McKenzie over Ireland.

Roll the clock forward 12 months and they arrive at the beginning of a rebuilding process (again), with a new coach (again) and with Ireland fancied to win out.

The difference is, that this is Ireland’s final Test of the November series.

Paul O'Connell Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

There was always the suspicion last year – however much Joe Schmidt and his squad would deny it – that Ireland had their eyes on a bigger prize when they fell 15 – 32 to the Wallabies in the Kiwi’s second game in charge.

This time around, Australia have been the primary target for Ireland, the climax of the Series and the culmination of Joe Schmidt’s month-long stint with his players. South Africa may have been an impressive scalp to claim, however this fixture will dictate how Schmidt’s international window is judged.

“It rankled a bit,” says Mike Ross of last year’s timid defeat, “because we knew that we didn’t compete physically on the day. You need your pack to front up against the likes of South Africa or Australia, otherwise you are in for a long day.”

From 4.30pm today, Ireland will set out to make the time fly by. They will aim to pitch the intensity levels just right so that the Green and Gold pack are hit hard and early. Schmidt didn’t quite make his intentions as clear as that when facing the media this week, but the underlying sentiment was there.

“At scrum time the Australians have been shown to cop a fair bit of pressure,” Schmidt said by way of compliment for the Wallaby set-piece.

“It will be really interesting to see if we can keep it stable from the very start. Because that would be something that we struggled with last year with their hit and chase.”

Schmidt’s interest has doubtless been transferred into a mission for his front row. So although the gold pack is perennially viewed as a weakness, Ross will take nothing for granted.

“It’s a stick people have beaten Australia with for a long time,” says the tighthead, looking fresh despite facing his third Test in 15 days, “but every time you beat them with it, they come back stronger.

“First of all, they have good players, so that helps. Secondly, they are very clever. They have more than one string to their bow. It’s never just route one with them. They might have one bad scrum and then come out with a good one. It’s not like every scrum is going to be bad – they’ll have good ones.

France Rugby Australia France's 'monster' Uini Atonio tackles Israel Falou. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

There’s nothing Ross loves better than getting into specifics about the scrum, so forgive him rounding up some numbers when he adds: “They had a couple of good [scrums] against France, but France had this 150 kilo monster from the bench [Uini Atonio]. He’s got 125 kilos of Yoann Maestri behind him. I felt sorry for the [Australia] loosehead – 280 kilos hitting his neck.

“I’m not 150kgs unfortunately… or fortunately. They’ve a good front row: they lost Stephen Moore last year but [Saia] Fainga’a has been very good. They have a few big lads on the bench, especially that Will Skelton.

“The onus is on us to deliver good ball to our backs. That’s the lifeblood of our team and of every team’s attack – delivering quality ball to the backs.”

It is the back division where the Wallabies are never doubted. Yet Cheika’s preference for his Waratahs out-half Bernard Foley over Quade Cooper certainly takes a little bit of the sparkle away from their attackers.

Cooper will take up a seat alongside Kurtley Beale on the bench, the bad boy of Australian rugby only joined the touring squad in the past week, but will hope to make an impact in whatever position he’s asked to fill as a replacement.

Under the disciplinarian Cheika, this Wallabies outfit look a more unified and focus outfit than the squad that came and ransacked Ireland 12 months ago. That side did still win, however, and Ireland will have to do much more than simply gain set-piece parity to exorcise the ghosts of that humbling defeat.


15. Rob Kearney.

14. Tommy Bowe.

13. Robbie Henshaw

12. Gordon D’Arcy.

11. Simon Zebo

10. Jonathan Sexton

9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath

2. Rory Best

3. Mike Ross

4. Devin Toner

5. Paul O’Connell (Capt.)

6. Peter O’Mahony

7. Rhys Ruddock

8. Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Rodney Ah You, Dave Foley, Tommy O’Donnell, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Felix Jones.


15. Israel Folau

14. Adam Ashley-Cooper

13. Tevita Kuridrani

12. Matt Toomua

11. Henry Speight

10. Bernard Foley

9. Nick Phipps

1. James Slipper.

2. Saia Fainga’a

3. Sekope Kepu

4. Sam Carter

5. Rob Simmons

6. Luke Jones

7. Michael Hooper

8. Ben McCalman

Replacements: James Hanson, Benn Robinson, Tetera Faulkner, Will Skelton, Jake Schatz, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale.

Originally published 07.15

Ireland v Australia: 11 battles that will be settled once and for all by sport today

Hooper enjoying life under Cheika ahead of meeting with in-form Ireland

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