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'We know it's going to get harder' - Cheika expects Ireland to improve

The Wallabies boss believes Ireland will be better with another week’s preparation under their belts.

Murray Kinsella reports from Brisbane

HAVING TASTED VICTORY over Ireland for the first time, Michael Cheika was a proud man on Saturday night in Brisbane.

The former Leinster boss wasn’t pleased simply on a personal level, rather because his players had delivered the kind of work rate and physical effort that is required against a team as strong as Ireland.

Michael Cheika Cheika's Wallabies are 1-0 up in the series. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

In truth, Saturday night’s eye-opening work rate and physicality haven’t always been present for the Wallabies in their inconsistent phase since the 2015 World Cup final.

Their scramble defence against Ireland on Saturday night was superb, although it wasn’t required too often as the Wallabies’ first-up hitting impressed.

Michael Hooper, Marika Koroibete, Scott Sio, Adam Coleman, Kurtley Beale – the Australians were queueing up to drive punishing shoulders into Irish ball carriers as they managed to limit Joe Schmidt’s team to a handful of genuine opportunities.

Both teams will make their way to Melbourne on Sunday ahead of next weekend’s second Test, but the Wallabies will have a greater bounce in their step after going 1-0 up in the opening clash.

“We spoke in the lead-up about work ethic,” said Cheika after his team’s 18-9 victory.

“We think Ireland are probably where they are because they’re such a hard-working team and if we were to compete, we needed to have a work ethic that was at least the same, if not better, just to have a foothold in the game.

“It proved to be a bit of a slugfest, one team going and then the other team going. I was really proud of that effort on work ethic. We tried hard to reduce our penalties as well, we can be better on that but the effort was there, maybe only one offside penalty, and I just liked the character we showed.”

The sheer pace at which the Australians are capable of attacking was a real danger to Ireland, as evidenced particularly by their turnover attack to score in the left corner through Bernard Foley in the first half.

Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony said the opening half was one of the quickest he has played in during his career and there were times when the visitors looked to be struggling, not having played at such a rapid pace for some time.

Robbie Henshaw tackled by Will Genia and Marika Koroibete Robbie Henshaw attempts to break for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Chieka, though, has no doubt Ireland will be better next time around and he doesn’t entertain the notion that the tourists are more likely to be fatigued at the end of their season.

“The Irish system is pretty good, their players are well-managed and they came out here really well-drilled,” said Cheika.

“That was a tight match, a very tight match, and we know how good they are. We know that it’s going to get harder. They’re getting over arrival, jet lag, they mixed a few of their players, they didn’t start Johnny Sexton, they didn’t start Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy.

“They’re going to change their look next week and we need to change our look as well because we will all have seen each other.

“That’s the best part about the three-match series concept, where it’s like we’re jousting one week and it’s on another week and we’ve got to change the tactics and keep the same dynamics in there.

“They’re very capable of lifting it a level next week.”

It will be fascinating to see how Ireland adapt to the Wallabies’ turnover threats in Melbourne, how Schmidt’s side deal with David Pocock, what the Australians do to improve a lineout that was pressured by O’Mahony and co., how Ireland look to manufacture an all-important try after failing to score one in Brisbane.

Those questions and many more will be asked on a tactical level as Ireland look to level the series and bring it into a decider in Sydney in two weekends’ time.

The matter of selection will also be an intriguing one for Ireland and the expectation is that there will be plenty of changes as Sexton, Garry Ringrose, Furlong, Healy, Dan Leavy, Devin Toner and others potentially come into the starting XV.

RUGBY AUSTRALIA IRELAND The Wallabies can seal the series in Melbourne next weekend. Source: AAP/PA Images

“They’ve got such a good squad, a lot of depth,” said Cheika. “If you have a look at the guys who were sitting on their bench tonight and even not in the squad, there’s a number of changes they could make and I imagine that a lot of guys could play in this series.

“They’ve got quality all across the park and that’s being genuine. They’re not number two in the world for nothing, they’ve won a stack of games in a row, Six Nations champions with a Grand Slam off the back of it, and you can’t do that without a lot of depth.

“I don’t know if they will change guys or not but whichever player plays, every game is going to be a tight game right until the end.

“Ireland are very consistent with what they do and they’re very good at it. Everyone talks about us coming off the back of one week’s preparation, well really they’ve only had that as well.

“They will get better for sure.”

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Murray Kinsella

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