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.
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:
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.
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