For those naysayers who have, for so long now, called for this International Rules series to be compromised, last week’s abysmally one-sided match will have justified that very argument. An inexperienced Australian outfit were sent out like lambs to the slaughter, the Australian public don’t care and it seems, not for the first time, the series could be on its last legs.
This second test, on the Gold Coast, will be little more than a pride-saving exercise for the Australians having succumbed to that 44 point mauling in Melbourne. The fear is the Aussies may confuse pride with a macho show of strength and power which may or may not fall within the rules. An unfairly battered and bruised Irish team will almost certainly spell the end of the series for the forseeable future.
Giant Australian Zac Smith has already signalled his side’s intent.
“We need to go out there with real intent and be harder at the ball,” he said.
“We need to rough them up a bit but our skills also need to be better than what they were last week.”
The Australians will be without Jake King as he has been laid low with a knee injury. Liam Shiels is also a major doubt for the second test with a leg injury so coach Rodney Eade may call up Andrew Walker as cover.
Ireland manager Anthony Tohill was unsurprisingly delighted with how his team performed in the first test. He has had numerous injury worries for this encounter however, with Pearce Hanley, Joe McMahon and Emmett Bolton all missing training.
“Joe didn’t tear his calf but he tore a few fibres in the muscle early Friday night so he wasn’t able to play. The injury wasn’t as bad as was feared. He had a scan yesterday and it was pretty okay so both of them should be available to play.
“Pearce is fine. We just gave him a night off. He’s in good shape. He’d a good game the other night so we’ve no concerns about Pearce.”
Emmett Bolton is recovering well having suffered a knock to the head in the first test and should also feature.
“His whole neck area is stiff and sore, as you can imagine if you saw the collision. He has been sore for a few days, but it’s freeing up and he was up to a good three-quarter pace there this evening. It’s all looking positive and we expect him to be available.”
Ireland should have far too much for the Aussies in this second test, no matter who is missing through injury on the Irish side. The reality is the Australians are a young outfit containing only four players who have played the hybrid game before and the skills and nous required cannot be acquired within a number of weeks.
An Irish victory is inevitable here but the game will ultimately be the winner if this fixture passes by without major and unwanted incident.