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'We underestimated them. That was disrespectful and they taught us a lesson'

Will Genia says the Wallabies won’t be making the same mistake they made back in 2011.

Murray Kinsella reports from Brisbane

WILL GENIA PROBABLY realised the Wallabies were in trouble before the 39th minute of their 2011 World Cup clash with Ireland, although being rag-dolled by Stephen Ferris off the back of an Australian scrum firmly underlined the message.

Stephen Ferris wraps up Will Genia Ferris sends Genia backwards. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With Ferris wrapping Genia up and lifting him clean off the ground before driving him backwards, the Ulster man’s team-mates piling in behind him, it was a huge moment in a huge win for Irish rugby.

It was also a big moment in the Wallabies realising that they had got their mental preparation completely wrong for the Pool C clash.

Genia is one of four players from that Australia matchday 23 in 2011 who are part of Michael Cheika’s squad today, with Kurtley Beale having started at fullback, Sekope Kepu at tighthead and Rob Simmons included on the bench.

The Wallabies take on Joe Schmidt’s visiting Ireland in Brisbane on Saturday in the first of a three-Test series and they won’t be making similar mistakes this time.

“When I look back on that game, we probably underestimated them,” said Genia on Monday at the Wallabies’ team hotel in sunny Brisbane. “That was probably disrespectful and they taught us a lesson which was good for us.

“Coming into this game, we cannot underestimate them at all. They are obviously number two in the world but more than that, just the level of rugby they have been playing – I have said it before, it is all about attrition with them.

“They are good at retaining possession but aside from that, you have got Sexton who can sit back in the pocket, you have Conor Murray, whose box kicking puts pressure on you in that sense.

“They have got a pretty good game but more than anything, they really understand their game plan and execute it really well.”

Asked to explain the difference between Ireland back in 2011 and now, Genia replies that “They just started winning,” but it is pointed out to him that Declan Kidney’s side had won a Grand Slam in 2009.

Jonathan Sexton celebrates Sexton celebrates in 2011.

“The style of rugby they play now,” continued Genia. “They have big game players now too… to be honest, I was probably ignorant back in 2009 of what they achieved that year.

“I was young, probably a bit ignorant – they had O’Gara, O’Driscoll, O’Connell.”

If Genia’s self-professed ignorance was damaging back then, Cheika and his senior leaders will surely be stressing to the younger members of their squad just how good Ireland are going to be this weekend.

However, Genia doesn’t think that today’s crop of young players will be lacking knowledge.

“I think guys just know more now,” said Genia. “Social media is a thing that has played a part in that, people take more of an interest now.

“They know the Sextons, the Murrays, the impacts they have had at club level, winning with Leinster and all that sort of stuff. There is no chance of us underestimating them because people just know too much.”

Indeed, the quality of Ireland’s halfbacks will be a big focus for the Australians in their pre-game analysis, with Sexton and Murray having proved so vitally influential in their side’s remarkable run of success.

Murray was as outstanding as ever in the Grand Slam victory this year and as a fellow scrum-half Genia can appreciate just how good the Munster man is.

“He is a big guy,” said the Melbourne Rebels man. “He is very strong, he can be physical. His tactical kicking, he does it better than anyone else, which creates a lot of pressure.

Will Genia Genia remains a key player for the Wallabies. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“They chase it well and when they get that ball back, they are 30/40 metres down the pitch and on the front foot. That is a big part of his game we have spoken about.”

It feels odd that Ireland come into a series with the Wallabies on Australian soil as the slight favourites, even if that status has been hard earned.

It would be something of a feather in the Australians’ caps to knock off the Grand Slam champions over the course of the next three weeks.

“It would be huge,” said Genua. “To get the chance against the second best team in the world over three games in a row, it would be a huge thing to get a series win. And I guess it would be a big confidence booster for us to get heading into the Rugby Championship, which is always tough.

“Personally, I don’t look at it as a chance to take the scalp of a Six Nations champion, I look at it as a chance to test yourself against a really good team. And you want to win.

“The accolades and all that, you don’t really care about that as much as you care about winning.”

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Murray Kinsella

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