Ireland take on an Australian side looking to prove something in the second round of this year’s Autumn Internationals at the Aviva Stadium.
Both teams won comfortably last weekend with Australia crushing the Italians with a seven try rout, finishing 50-20. Ireland also put away an injury hit Samoan team 40-9, but it wasn’t without some nervousness from the Ireland camp after an abysmal first half performance. Both teams are determined to prove themselves in this titanic encounter that has brought us to the edge of our seats in the past.
Paul O’Connell will lead out the Irish team after proving his fitness over the last week. Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien are also joining the pack after being left out of last week’s starting team against Samoa.
Ireland has been boosted by the return of the talisman, Jonny Sexton who is reunited with his former provincial half-back partner Eoin Reddan. The Irish side includes 11 of the players who defeated Australia in the World Cup in 2011, which is the last time these sides met.
15: Rob Kearney, 14: Tommy Bowe, 13: Brian O’Driscoll, 12: Luke Marshall, 11: Fergus McFadden, 10: Jonny Sexton, 9: Eoin Reddan. 1: Cian Healy, 2: Rory Best, 3: Mike Ross, 4: Devin Toner, 5: Paul O’Connell (capt), 6: Peter O’Mahony, 7: Sean O’Brien, 8: Jamie Heaslip
Australia on the other hand have not named their team to face Ireland but are eager to overcome recent problems and I’m sure Schmidt won’t be as relaxed as some Irish rugby fans might be about the Wallabies coming to town.
Duels of the Game
I think there are a few key duels in this game. The clash between Paul O’Connell and James Horwill is going to be intense and whoever wins this battle could decide the fate of the game. How well the tight five perform on each team will determine who gets quick ball.
Hooper and O’Brien could also be a duel to watch as O’Brien’s consistent ball carrying could leave Ireland isolated at the breakdown with Hooper being one of the many turnover specialists.
In the backs I think Jonny Sexton and Quade Cooper’s battle could be immense, who will win? The composed, rugby minded magician or the agile, dangerous showman from the Gold Coast.
I honestly can’t call this one. If Australia can take control of the breakdown and hand Genia the ball on a platter, it will give their backs the opportunity to play the incredibly imaginative rugby we know they can execute, especially with players like Folau in their backline.
However, I am confident that the Irish pack can dominate the breakdown and keep the game tight. But if they let the Australians play the ball wide, we are in serious trouble knowing that questions were asked of our defence last weekend. This will be a dogged fight right until the end but I think Ireland will edge it, mainly because Sexton’s composure will trump Cooper’s unpredictability.