Test Match Preview
AUSTRALIA VS IRELAND
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Local time kick off 20:00, 10:00 GMT, SA Time – 12:00
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gaüzère (France), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
I watched the first Test between the Wallabies and Ireland with some interest. I had predicted that Ireland would win, and that the Wallaby weakness would be found in the defence of their flyhalf and midfield combination. I was wrong on both counts. Australia won the game, and it was their midfield defensive system that stopped the Irish in their tracks.
The overall, lasting impression that I took from the game was the startled expressions in the Irish eyes! The eyes told us that they had not expected anything of the sort from the Wallabies. They had arrived on a wave of confidence. The Six Nations Champions, and almost at full strength too. So much confidence that they benched their flyhalf general and match winner Johnny Sexton, giving the 22-year old Joey Carbery a start at flyhalf. They sent a youngster to do a man’s job. This was, after all, going to be easy. They were the bookies favourites. They were the media hacks and tipsters favourites. They are the second ranked team in the world!
Was it arrogance? Was it a failure to prepare properly? Did they underestimate the Wallabies?
I do believe it was a combination of all three.
The Irish expected to win the game, and did not take into account the Wallaby desire to succeed at home.
It is likely to be very different this week. The Irish will know that they have a big game on their hands, and they know that they lost the staring match with the Wallabies. The Irish blinked first.
With Ireland fighting to keep the series alive and the Wallabies out to clinch it, it’s going to be a big game!
Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has named an unchanged matchday squad to take on Ireland in their second Test, in Melbourne on Saturday.
It is the first time since taking over the Wallabies reins in 2014 that Cheika has kept the same 23 two weeks in a row.
Johnny Sexton’s return to the starting XV is one of eight alterations made by Ireland coach Joe Schmidt for Saturday’s Test against Australia in Melbourne.
Veteran prop Cian Healy is set to win his 80th cap on Saturday as he returns to the starting XV. He is named in a new look front-row alongside Niall Scannell and Tadhg Furlong.
In the second-row Devin Toner starts alongside James Ryan.
Dan Leavy is the final change in the pack as he is named at openside with Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander completing the back-row.
Star fly-half Sexton comes back into the side alongside Conor Murray while Robbie Henshaw moves to inside centre with Garry Ringrose starting at thirteen.
Rob Kearney is at full-back with Andrew Conway on the right wing and Keith Earls on the left.
In the reserves, Tadhg Beirne is set to make his Ireland debut from the bench which also includes Rob Herring, Jack McGrath, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Joey Carbery and Jordan Larmour.
I do believe that this Irish team will be looking for a vast improvement from each and every member. The impression that they might just have been underdone, a little too confident, and a little arrogant when they faced the Wallabies last week will have to be banished.
They will heed the words of one of their own, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the Irish Playwright, who said:
“The surest way to fail is not to determine to succeed.”
And that is precisely where the Irish team seemed a little underdone last week. It seemed that they expected to succeed, but did not play with the determination that they unleashed during the 6-Nations. That may change this week!
Which bring to mind yet another famous Irishman, James Joyce, who wrote: “Your battles inspired me – not the obvious material battles but those that were fought and won behind your forehead.”
Will Joyce be inspired by the Irish team on Saturday? Will they have won that mental battle with themselves.
Last week they were caught off guard by the ferocity and intensity of the Wallaby defence. They appear have learned from that.
Johnny Sexton is back in his flyhalf jersey, Andrew Conway replaces Jacob Stockdale in the back three and Garry Ringrose replaces Bundee Aki.
Those are all changes focussed on finding or forcing holes in the Wallaby wall of defenders.
The Irish also have to find a way of countering David Pocock. They have made a lot of changes to their pack and added some pace and muscle to their loose trio.
Flank Dan Leavy, lock Devin Toner and the front row of Tadhg Furlong, Niall Scannell and Cian Healy all add beef and some muscle to the breakdowns. They have added the up and coming youngster, Tadhg Beirne to the bench, with the intention of unleashing his pace and skills later in the game.
The Irish have had to make the changes. They will have looked closely at their faults, their mistakes, and their soft spots. They had work to do, and I would guess that they did some hard talking too.
The Wallabies, in contrast, will simply look for a repeat of last week’s game. They will look to Pocock to dominate the breakdowns, for Hooper to harass every Irishman he can reach. They will want the same focus and steel from the midfield. They will want Kurtley Beale to continue to offer his clever boot and quick thinking as a supplement to Bernard Foley’s game management.
And they will want the Irish to kick the ball onto Israel Folau.
We can also expect the Wallabies to unleash an aerial bombardment onto the Irish back three, with Folau, Haylett-Petty, and Beale as the chasers.
More of the same from the Wallabies, versus a vast improvement from the visitors?
I have one other thought that is worth mentioning.
The weather prediction that I have included in this preview suggests that it will be rather cold in Melbourne. My source is the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, one of the world’s most reliable and accurate weather prediction services. They say that it will rain in Melbourne on Sunday, after the match. Some of the other weather services are suggesting that the rain may arrive a little earlier. The previous evening, perhaps.
About the time that the Test match is in full swing.
And that hands the advantage straight to the Irish. They play in rain at home all the time. It is part of being Irish.
My late friend Joe, a born Irishman, used to say that if you looked out of his bedroom window in the morning and you could see the mountain, you knew it would rain later in the day. If you could not see the mountain, it was raining already!
It could be very interesting!
The Wallabies would love to win this one and bank a series win before going into the final Test. They are at home, and they expect plenty of local support.
There is one minor problem, the Irish are not going to let them win as easily as all that. This is a wounded Irish team, and they will fight back.
And if it rains……….. Who knows what will happen then?
I am seeing an Irish fightback to even up the series. The Irish, by 7 points.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Caleb Timu, 7 Michael Hooper (c) 6 David Pocock, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Lukhan Tui, 21 Pete Samu, 22 Nick Phipps 23 Reece Hodge
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 James Ryan, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Jordan Larmour