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Irish to complete the clean sweep

With the clock ticking down to the next World Cup, and with only a limited number of games left for Ireland, Irish coach Joe Schmidt may have been tempted to throw in a major curve ball and opt for Ian Madigan at No 12 against the Australians.

Schmidt has always been all about surprise selections, he also knows that his opposite number Michael Cheika will know all too well what veteran Leinster man Gordon D'Arcy can bring, but in the end Schmidt kept faith with most of the team that tamed the Springboks with D'Arcy brought back.

Up front as expected hooker Rory Best returns in an area where Australia are always suspect, the tight five. Best is an astute on-field leader, and old school scrummaging hooker and is particularly good on the ground, all things that Ireland will be need in the first half of tomorrow's match.


Seán Cronin is then primed to come on and add his dynamic ball-carrying ability. Schmidt is all about a 23-man game rather than a 15-man one, the team that starts will not be the team that finishes, the modern game is now all about impact and what you can bring off the bench to either close out a match or chase one if needs be.

Last weekend in his build up to this weekend's big clash my RTé colleague Tom McGurk told us that the "Wild Colonial Boys of Australia were coming". An apt description perhaps?

Australia, per head of population, produces the most competitive and elite sportspeople anywhere in the world. And their famed Institute Of Sport is the blueprint for national success.

On the flipside they have also always produced sportspeople that push the barriers off the field as well. In my days it was the likes of cricketers Geoff Thompson, Dennis Lillie and more recently Shane Warne that courted controversy, and even today it seems that every year either a rugby union or rugby league star makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

In the past few years Australian rugby players like Quade Cooper, James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale, all multi-talented, ultra competitive sports men have tiptoed the line on what is acceptable, even for a nation that loves their sportspeople, aggressive, competitive and colourful.

Under former coach Robbie Deans, Australia had a good technical man at the helm, but also a man unable to tame the Aussie mentality, it was of course made worst given that he was an ex-All Black.

Despite a long running media campaign to have Deans ousted, Australia's so called natural successor Ewan McKenzie lasted just a single season amongst stories of unrest and disharmony in the national team.

What Michael Cheika brought to Leinster rugby is without doubt one of the reasons why current Irish coach Joe Schmidt succeeded in Europe.

Cheika's timely arrival at Leinster coincided with a whole new attitude of disciplined aggression. The Australian more than anyone sowed the seeds for Leinster becoming one of the major powers in the Northern Hemisphere game.

Cheika calls a spade a spade, and that is what his players respond too, he is tough but fair.


His success with Leinster and with the NSW Warratahs is testament to his ability to build teams from the ground up, restore their team spirit and pride and bring a play for each other approach.

Cheika will have his players primed to perform and he will be bitterly upset at having lost in Paris last weekend and tomorrow's game now becomes bigger for Australia than it does for Ireland.

At the start of this autumn campaign we knew that a win against Georgia was a must and that one of the two big Southern Hemisphere scalps would have meant a decent return for Ireland.

Not since 2006 has Irish enjoyed a clean sweep in their off season, and Schmidt, ever Mr Perfection will want that, he will see this as more pressure not less.

So what of this team of so called 'wounded wild colonials'?

The Wallabies possibly possess the most exciting backline in the world, especially from unstructured and counter-attack play.

In ex-rugby league full-back Israel Folau they have perhaps the best player in the air in the game. Throw in the hard running centre Tevita Kuridrani, and the experience of Adam Ashley-Cooper and they have a backline that can sparkle.

Cheika has settled on an outhalf who reads the game well in Bernard Foley. If Ireland kick poorly out of hand, or fail to have good line speed and numbering up in defence, then Australia have the ability to score and create scores from anywhere.

The tight five has always been a problem area for Australian rugby, and you have to go back a very long way to actually pick an Australian prop that would have been an automatic choice in a World XV.

But they did show against both Wales and then France that this is an area they have been seriously working on. It is still an area where Ireland must attack them early on especially in the lineout, an area that Ireland struggled with against the Springboks.

In captain and openside flanker Michael Hooper they have a player that is very mobile and he will more than match Ireland's race to the breakdown, hence early in the game Ireland must seek to dominate in the close collision areas, and keep the likes of Hooper involved defensively.

In some ways the opposite of how they played against South Africa.

Against South Africa Johnny Sexton produced a master class in kicking out of hand, winning territory and ultimately the game, but he will know that he must keep the Australian back three, Folau in particular, on the move from corner to corner rather than the usual Garryowens.

The secret with Folau, like Sonny Bill Williams, is to tackle him so as to prevent the offload, so if Sexton is going to employ the up and under, then Ireland's defence must think about staying on the ground rather than competing in the air.

The pressure is firmly on the visitors and that may just allow Ireland to sneak another win.


1 Take them on where they are always most vulnerable ie up front. Scrum well first and on the opposition ball try and disrupt the Wallabies from getting quick, front foot ball. Force the Wallabies set piece, at scrums and lineouts, to be slow and clumsy.

2 Use the maul in attack and especially from lineouts, drag in the Aussie defenders, use the choke tackle and commit greater numbers to rucks in defence.

3 Use more runners in close first, employing good decoy angles inside and outside Johnny Sexton's shoulder. Punch in close, pick and go at speed and get in behind the Wallabies first line of attack. Use Jamie Heaslip off the back more.

4 Move Australia's back-three around the park, with less Garryowen's and more corner to corner kicking. Attack the spaces.