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Wednesday 14 November 2018

On the brink of History

Ireland have to show clinical edge

LEADING FROM THE FRONT: Skipper Peter O’Mahony makes his point at the captain’s run
at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney Pic: Sportsfile
LEADING FROM THE FRONT: Skipper Peter O’Mahony makes his point at the captain’s run at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney Pic: Sportsfile

Ireland have every excuse in the book to go quietly into the Sydney night.

At the end of a long season, they have already secured their first win in Australia in 39 years.

The unconscious temptation to ease off the accelerator would be terminal to their plans, not just for a Test win, but a series win.

Coach Joe Schmidt will have guarded against any drop-off in attitude, physical or mental, during the week.

The desire of his men to put their best feet forward for a coveted series win claimed Sean Cronin as a victim in an intense Thursday session.

The hooker sat out the captain's run at the Allianz Stadium yesterday just when he was earmarked for a rare and precious chance to start for Ireland.

An IRFU's spokesman's statement that Cronin was going to make the starting line can be taken with more than a pinch of salt for his wound.

What a shame it would be if the Leinster front-row could not add to his meagre nine starts from 62 caps. In his nine seasons at play for Ireland, Cronin has never started a Six Nations match.

The pecking order would suggest Niall Scannell as the first man in the queue for promotion to start.

However, Rob Herring was unerring in his throwing in the first Test and led the line in defence in his impact role in Melbourne.

Ireland have to maintain their dominance of possession and territory to break the resilient Australians. If they can manage to be more clinical with what they get, they could even win with something to spare.

This is not the most likely outcome, however.

The Wallabies struck for three tries in the second Test with minimum chances to waste. They did far more with far less.

"One of their biggest assets is their ability to play rugby and to strike wide," said Ireland captain Peter O'Mahony.

"And 30-35pc possession and three tries is a very impressive stat. We know how dangerous they are with the ball.

"As a result, I think our defence needs to step up a notch."

A worrying aspect must have been how easily Australia cracked open Ireland's maul defence - an area of the game for which they are not renowned.

On the other side of the ball, the Irish maul has found it difficult to move forward, yet it was considered one of the better departments to their overall game not that long ago.

It could just come down to energy levels. Ireland looked to be struggling with the pace of play in the last 10 minutes in Melbourne, despite owning the ball for extended periods.

Wallaby coach Michael Cheika knows the game will swing on the breakdown and on how much of the ball his men can rip away from the Irish.

The home nation has the hometown advantage and the vital edge in freshness.

Australia: I Folau; M Koroibete, S Kerevi, K Beale, D Haylett-Petty; B Foley, N Phipps; S Sio, B Paenga-Amosa, S Kepu, I Rodda, A Coleman, L Tui, M Hooper (capt), D Pocock. Reps: T Latu, A T Robertson, T Tupou, R Simmons, N Hanigan, P Samu; J Powell, R Hodge.

Ireland: R Kearney; K Earls, R Henshaw, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, S Cronin/N Scannell, T Furlong, D Toner, James Ryan, CJ Stander, P O'Mahony (capt), J Conan. Reps: N Scannell/R Herring, C Healy, John Ryan, T Beirne, J Murphy; K Marmion, R Byrne, J Larmour.

  • Third Test, Australia v Ireland, (Sydney, Live SSAction, 11.05)

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