Sexton sounds warning
New-look Wallabies won't be a pushover, says Ireland out-half
IRELAND out-half Jonathan Sexton has warned "this is not the Australia that the Lions played in the summer".
Coach Ewen McKenzie has reverted to the traditional strengths of Wallaby rugby, playing with ball-in-hand and plotting to out-think the opposition.
"They are playing a good brand which we saw glimpses of against Argentina at the end of the Rugby Championship," Sexton said, on announcement of his award as the Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year for 2012-2013.
"Scoring 50 points against Italy is not an easy thing to do, so they're hitting some form. It's a different team. It's got Quade Cooper just to name one and he can make such a difference."
For all the interest in the advent of the Joe Schmidt era and the end of Brian O'Driscoll's, not to forget the promotion of Ewen McKenzie down under, the half-backs will be charged with turning possession into points.
It should be Conor Murray and Sexton pitting their wits against Will Genia and Cooper in a mouth-watering prospect.
"Genia is at the core of their team especially, and Quade Cooper when he's in the environment under McKenzie where he is given free reign to go out and play what he sees.
"He has a full bag of tricks to make you look stupid. If you try and make him look stupid, he'll make you look stupid – you know?
"If you rush out of the line or try and go for an interception, he can pull a string and you're under your posts.
"We've done a decent job against him in the past and we can take comfort from that, but we know he's in a different environment now. And system.
"He's probably more dangerous. He showed some really good signs against Italy in the bits I've seen so far and he is a quality player."
Australia have their magic men in Cooper, scrum-half Will Genia and Israel Folau. Ireland have their talisman too, none more so than Brian O'Driscoll.
"I'm sure he'll be trying to show Australia what he would have seen in the third Test (for the Lions)," said Sexton.
"I'm sure that's his mindset. It always is with Brian. He's very competitive and I'm sure he's looking forward to his last chance against the southern hemisphere teams."
This season is a parade of finals for O'Driscoll, not just in terms of trophies to win. He will have his final shot at Australia on Saturday; New Zealand on Sunday week.
"It's his last Ireland v Australia game and he has had big moments against Australia over the last 12 or 13 seasons and it would be nice for him to get another one."
Sexton also put the record straight about his club Racing Metro – Ronan O'Gara likes to refer to it as "the fifth province" – and working in the service of their best interests.
It did seem unnecessary to take him to Biarritz last Saturday week when he was nursing a hip strain. It was a matter of needs must.
There were issues of injury and inactivity for all four tens at Racing.
"I understood where the club were coming from. I was fit. I was ready to play. There was no reason for them not to pick me," he said. "They couldn't really have said 'oh, well he's got a game for Ireland in a couple of weeks, we need to rest him' they don't think like that.
"They have to look after themselves and I have to do what's best for the club because they're my employers and that's the bottom line."
It is the same bottom line wherever Sexton plays. Winning is his first and last motivation.