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Schmidt has the edge in battle of the Grandmasters



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Michael Cheika is now where Joe Schmidt was this time last season.

This very fact might just be enough to swing it Ireland's way to complete a November clean sweep for the first time since 2006.

There is a caveat.

Schmidt was at the beginning of a process where he would turn Ireland inside-out with detail and downside-up with their rise to third in the World Rankings.

Ireland lock Devin Toner spoke this week about how Cheika has come late to the Australian post and has not tried to change too much too quickly, specifically at lineout time.

While Schmidt is revered as a technical coach hell bent on finding the cracks in the best sealed defences - Australia is one of those - Cheika is a motivator, a disciplinarian and a bond-builder.

Cheika embraced the mind games by putting Quade Cooper and Will Genia front-and-centre for the cameras earlier in the week to fuel the rumour mill of their return.

However, he has chosen to stay loyal to two more fundamental operators in Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps, a skilled kicker and a work-rate scrum-half.

There have been no ducks and drakes this week from Ireland, as the return to fitness of Rory Best and Gordon D'Arcy and the foot injury to Jared Payne made it a foregone conclusion.

The Irish half-backs have been lauded as the best in world rugby in some quarters.

Certainly, Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray have been playing like men who relish pressure rather than succumb to it.

Schmidt will have noted how Australia looked to hide Foley on the periphery of their defence in Paris. He is a weakness to be exploited in the same way the Aussies will go after Robbie Henshaw's inexperience.


The-21 year-old has an energy and a will for physical contact that can be both a positive and a negative.

He can be drawn out of the line in his enthusiasm to get his hit in. Schmidt and Les Kiss will have worked on this with him because there are no better exponents of space than Australia.

The selection of Rory Best at hooker is a reflection of how troubled the scrum has looked against South Africa and Georgia.

While Sean Cronin has been in storming form for Leinster, the details of this job are wildly different for Ireland.

The basics of the game are paramount. Best is the better scrummager and a real presence at the breakdown.

Ireland: R Kearney; T Bowe, R Henshaw, G D'Arcy, S Zebo; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, M Ross, D Toner, P O''Connell (capt), P O'Mahony, R Ruddock, J Heaslip.

Australia: I Folau; A Ashley-Cooper, T Kuridrani, M Toomua, H Speight; B Foley, N Phipps; J Slipper, S Fainga'a, S Kepu, S Carter, R Simmons, L Jones. M Hooper (capt), B McCalman.

Verdict: Ireland