'If we can pull this one off, it will be a little bit special for this group'

Joe Schmidt spoke to legendary Ireland out-half Ollie Campbell about the last series success in 1979.

Updated Jun 18th 2018, 12:05 PM

Murray Kinsella reports from Sydney

BEFORE IRELAND HEADED out on tour to Australia, Joe Schmidt caught up with Ollie Campbell.

The legendary out-half, who Schmidt calls “a fantastic fella and a guy I have a huge amount of respect for,” wrestled Ireland’s number 10 shirt from Tony Ward on the famous 1979 tour of Australia and led the team to success in both Test matches.

Johnny Sexton with Joe Schmidt Schmidt speaks with Johnny Sexton before last weekend's win. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

That remains Ireland’s most recent series success against the Wallabies on Aussie soil, although this is the first time they have played them over three Tests.

As hoped for, Schmidt’s men are heading into this weekend’s final clash in Sydney at what is already a sold-out Allianz Stadium with everything to play for.

“He is certainly sage but he just really wished us luck,” says Schmidt of speaking to Campbell. “His quiet word is a little bit of a word of confidence. At the same time it is a little bit of a challenge for this modern team – can they do it?”

It is the question that will make these next few days drag for Schmidt, Ireland, Michael Cheika, the Wallabies, and everyone else who is eagerly anticipating this showdown.

“Obviously the lads are still being talked about from 1979 so we want to be talked about in another couple of years as well,” says Ireland lock Devin Toner of the opportunity.

“We’re doing great things with this team and we’re in a special place, so obviously we want to win as much as we can.”

Making new history is, of course, part of the appeal for Ireland but they also live by their own Grand Slam-winning standards now.

Having been in a similar 1-1 position on their 2016 tour of South Africa coming into the final Test – albeit with a different squad – and losing that time, there is even greater hunger this week.

The Ireland players applaud the supporters after the game Ireland applaud their excellent Irish support in Melbourne. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“For a few lads who are in there now, myself included, we were in South Africa two years ago and it was really frustrating,” says scrum-half Conor Murray.

“To go down there and win a series would have been unbelievable. It was a great building process for the team at the time with a few young lads there, but that was the series we let slip.

“We were definitely in winning positions and, for whatever reasons, we came up short.

“This is the last game of our season and I know we’re really hungry to win a series down here. Whatever about the history, 1979, this is our team, our standards and that is what we want to get.”

Schmidt has injury concerns this week in Cian Healy [AC], Dan Leavy [sternum] and Andrew Conway [hip pointer].

His initial prognosis on all three was positive, although loosehead prop Healy did appear to be in the greatest pain as he left the pitch.

Jack McGrath’s indiscipline will likely have been picked out by Schmidt in Ireland’s review meetings but he was excellent apart from a neck roll penalty and the yellow card for playing the ball with his hand in a ruck.

Elsewhere in his team, Schmidt will consider bringing Jacob Stockdale back in on the wing, while Iain Henderson will push to return in the second row if his knee niggle has cleared.

Niall Scannell and Rob Herring both made strong cases to be the starting hooker in Test three, while Bundee Aki could be an option in midfield if his ankle issue has cleared.

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Selection decisions aside, Schmidt still sees plenty of room for improvement in his team after their 26-21 victory in Melbourne to level the series, particularly in how they take the chances they are creating.

Rob Herring, Jordi Murphy and Rob Kearney celebrate as Referee Paul Williams signals a knock on Schmidt is looking for one final push from his players. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It is easy to say but we just need to finish sometimes,” says the Ireland boss. “I felt we played some really good stuff in that third quarter and put them under some massive pressure.

“And they were bleeding back, quite often, on the back of half opportunities, half gaps, sometimes full gaps, like when Keith Earls went through, one when Tadhg Furlong went through earlier just before half-time, but to then get something on the back of those is quite tough when a team defends as earnestly as they did.

“Even when Tadhg scored that try, there were two offside advantages, so that would have blown the penalty count out even more and it would have put the big question regarding ‘is it a card or not?’”

Schmidt was pleased to have another new cap in Tadhg Beirne last weekend, growing the internal competition within his squad.

Now, he focuses in on helping Ireland to finish a superb season in the perfect manner in front of 45,500 people in Sydney.

“It is going to massive, absolutely massive,” says Schmidt. “If we can pull this one off, it will be a little bit special for this group that have come on tour.”

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Murray Kinsella

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