Key Clash Preview: Ireland v Australia

We will be doing live updates on this game tomorrow morning on the website. Come back and leave your comments on the match as the action unfolds from 9:15am.

Sean O'Brien

Date: Saturday, September 17, 2011
Time: 9:30am BST/8:30pm NZST
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZ)

Declan Kidney had just 3 games under his belt as Ireland coach when the World Cup draw was made back in December 2008 and he learned the Australians would be the seeded team in his pool. Although Grand Slam success quickly followed, given Ireland’s disastrous 2007 World Cup campaign, this meeting on Saturday would have always been on his radar. Irish fans will probably see the Italian match as their key battle for progressing in the competition but Kidney knows they deserve at very least a decent showing in Auckland against the Tri-Nations champions. As for his opposite number Robbie Deans, this will be his squad’s first chance in the tournament to show they’re true contenders to make the All Blacks wait four more years.


Having followed Kidney’s selections closely over his reign, it is clear that this match day XV is the one he wants from his available players. They need to step up and justify the faith he has placed in them, particularly those who have shown poor form of late like Gordon D’Arcy and Keith Earls. For only the second time this calendar year, we see a half back pairing in green who also wear the same colour at provincial level as Eoin Reddan partners Jonathan Sexton. In fact, from the back of the scrum right through to outside centre Ireland have players from Heineken Cup champions Leinster – they MUST reproduce that trophy winning form.


After 47 minutes against Italy last Sunday, Australia were being held at 6-6. Then James O’Connor came on and before you could say “Waltzing Matilda” they had run in four tries. His kicking, tough tackling and joining the line are things they cannot do without, and it is no surprise he has been recalled to start after his off-field indiscretions. Digby Ioane’s injury however takes a vital counter-attack component away from the Wallabies and forces Adam Ashley-Cooper out to the wing, though he’ll surely move into the centre should they struggle there which would pave the way for a timely return to test rugby for Drew Mitchell off the bench.

What to expect:

I expect a titanic struggle among the forwards, with possibly one of the greatest ever back row battles in the loose all set to unfold in Eden Park. Ireland should have the edge in set-pieces, though only slightly. Behind the scrum you can definitely expect some kind of wizardy from the Australian back line orchestrated of course by their talismanic fly-half Quade Cooper. As for the Irish back line, although there’s a ton of ability there, on recent evidence I honestly cannot tell you what to expect!

All eyes on: 

Sean O’Brien

He’s the European Player of the Year. It’s time to show the Southern Hemisphere why. Unfortunately he must play openside but you can be sure that when crash ball opportunities do present themselves, he’ll set his sights well beyond that gain line. He’ll have his hands full against Elsom and Pocock but has able support from Stephen Ferris who may just be hitting his best form at the right time.

David Pocock

There are reports on Friday morning Irish time he’s nursing a “back strain” but I have my doubts. Pretty much the only 7 right now in Test rugby who has you going “Richie who?”. His ability at the breakdown is reaching Jedi proportions, being a phenomenal athlete who is able to make himself into an immovable object. Can’t see how Ireland can hope to have a strategy to actually stop him, but if they can manage to contain him they’ll be doing well. If we see Elsom and Samo rampaging forward at any stage and no doubt we will, you can be sure it will be thanks at least in part to Pocock.

Head to Head: Eoin Reddan v Will Genia

I was tempted to go for Sexton v Cooper but I feel this game will be won or lost in transition, especially when it comes to making quick, correct decisions after turnovers, and this is where the number 9s will be so vital. Genia won the Super Rugby Final virtually single-handed with his quick thinking – Reddan needs to match it if Ireland are going to regularly turn possession and territory into points.

Last fixture: They played on an end of season tour at the SunCorp Stadium in Brisbane in June 2010 with the Wallabies running out 22-15 winners.

Weather: Forecast for Auckland Saturday evening is “A mix of cloudy and clear skies with a chance of showers. Windy.” Temp: 14°C

Prediction: Nobody predicted Leinster’s display in the Heineken Cup semi-final against Munster in 2009. Few predicted Ireland’s display last March denying England a Grand Slam. So I’m letting my heart rule my head by predicting Ireland will confound the critics and win by three.

By JL Pagano

11 thoughts on “Key Clash Preview: Ireland v Australia

  1. No way haha. Keith Earls and Gordon d’arcy will be left scratching their heads while the aussie backs run riot. Unfortunately for the irish, BOD can’t do it all by himself. Shame for him really, he is a legend of the game and has said this is his last hurrah

  2. Emotion, rather than cool logic is confounding the build up to this match. Every non-Australian seems to be hoping for an Irish miracle.

    As a die hard Australian, Ireland’s win against England in the six nations (whilst thrilling at the time) is giving me concern (albeit, England was three shades of shite that day).

    Still, having watched the lead up matches of both teams, there is no doubt that Australia has had the better form by a coutnry mile, have performed well under pressure (even at Eden Park when we lost to The Darkness, we still played credibly, just outclassed), and also have run a gauntlet of ‘finals footy’.

    I’m stll tipping the Wallabies by 13, but it will be a bloody exciting match – a very close first half, and then the men in gold will start finding the gaps.

    Bring it on!

  3. starting to get the same feeling i got before eng match in march and we know what happened there ….i think we might do it in a classic

  4. Ireland ae playing total crap these days but on the other hand they were before the England game earlier this year.

    This Aussie team is pure class and I love to watch them play.

    I don’t think the Irish can go far but they have some old boys that can still raise their game for the big day, look for Ireland to try and take them on up front, Ferres will try to knock seven bells out of, we the whole team. This game will be monumental and the world cup should come alive. I really hope for an Irish win just because I’m not Irish or Aussie. Underdog and all that.

    I think Wales display against the Boks will hearten the Irish, maybe the SANZAR nations aren’t so far ahead even if they are clearly better. Very rarely, 91 as I remember, does a world cup go buy without a SANZAR getting turned over by a northern hem team.

    So lets strap in I think it will be a cracker either way

  5. When or if the going gets tough I suspect that a certain Irish forward feigns injury. We may very well see it happen tomorrow.

    Also, Heaslip had better carry some ball tomorrow although I suspect he won’t be up to it. He didn’t make one carry from behind a totally dominant scrum against USA. In my mind he should be dropped as he is fairly useless and just baggage at the moment. If he doesn’t show up tomorrow we have even less of a chance.

  6. I’m going to have to jump in and defend Jamie Heaslip here.

    Maybe I’ll concede he wasn’t Ireland’s best player v USA, but he certainly wasn’t the worst. If Keith Earls bothered to look over his shoulder after his break into the USA 22 early on, Heaslip would have a try to his name and the critics would have to be silent.

    And in my book, there were two reasons he kept the ball in the back of the scrum : (1) it was going forward, and so quickly that he should be getting credit for a number 8 skill that rarely gets seen and which failed Parisse against the Aussies, and (2) because it kept the pesky Todd Clever bound to the scrum. More than once, in keeping the ball in the scrum, he won a penalty, which will always gain more yardage than a pick and go in percentage terms.

    It’s a credit to the man that fans expect so much of him, and there’s no doubting he’ll need to raise his game on Saturday. But in recent matches he has made many tackles and forced many turnovers, nothing headline-grabbing, but hardly useless.

  7. Ireland have only one, maybe two big performances in them in this world cup so perhaps it would be best if the lads peak not against Australia bit against Italy & especially against South Africa in 1/4 final. Australia should win by 10-17 points, breaking Ireland down on the hour mark

  8. Everybody bar ourselves seem to be writing us off. This is giving me hope anytime we our written off across the board is usually the time we come out fighting back to the wall heoric type sh1t. So bring it on I say bring it on good.


  9. Ireland can take this out, the team played well enough on a bad night to beat USA
    we were never in any danger of loosing that game. Guys are finding their form
    Pocock is out we can take the wind out of the Aussie sails tonight
    Keep Genia under control and we are in with a great chance not only of winning but getting a bonus point
    Go Ireland

  10. This could be Ireland’s world cup, their confidence is so low at the mo that if the lose badly against Aus, I would fancy Italy to turn them over as well.

    They need to prove themselves that they can still do it.

    If they win, well wind in their sails and off to an easier quaterfinals and possibly semi, this is a huge game for Ireland and should not be treated in any other way.

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