Preview: Ireland v Australia

Date published: November 25 2016

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Ireland and Australia will resume hostilities in Dublin on Saturday in what promises to be a thrilling clash between two highly entertaining sides.

This fixture is of utmost importance to both sides as they are on course to notch important milestones. An Irish victory will be a momentous one as it will mean they become the first Northern Hemisphere nation to claim victories over the traditional powerhouses from the South, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.

This after the men from the Emerald Isle beat the Springboks at Newlands during the opening fixture of their three-Test series in June and their historic victory over the All Blacks in Chicago earlier this month.

A win for the Wallabies will also keep their Grand Slam hopes alive and a triumph in their final match, of their end-of-year campaign, against England at Twickenham next week will see them achieve that feat for the first time since 1984.

Ireland head in to this clash after suffering a 21-9 loss to New Zealand in Dublin last weekend. That match proved costly as they lost the services of first-choice fly-half Johnny Sexton and inside centre Robbie Henshaw who have been replaced by Paddy Jackson and Garry Ringrose respectively.

Jackson showed against South Africa that he can do well at Test level while Ringrose is a prodigious talent of whom great things are expected. Key flanker Sean O'Brien however is still a doubt, with Peter O'Mahony training with the squad.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt is aware of the Wallabies' Grand Slam ambitions and expects them to be highly motivated.

"They (Australia) improved during the Rugby Championship," he told RTÉ Sport.

"They have been on an upward curve. I have no doubt they want that to continue over the next two weeks to chase the Grand Slam. There’s something really tangible for them to attain. They can’t attain it if they don’t win this weekend, so that will be their full focus. I think they have named a team that’s representative of how committed they are to getting this result."

Wallabies boss Michael Cheika has recalled Dean Mumm to his back row, a move which surprised some as Lopeti Timani, who is a strong ball-carrier, was expected to start ahead of him.

Cheika didn't hide the fact that by picking Mumm, he will be targeting Ireland's line-out.

"Timani has done absolutely nothing wrong,” he said.

"We want to focus a little bit more on our lineout this week and the threat that Ireland might pose there – they're very good in that area. Dean brings a lot of experience and quality in that area. But then we'll probably lose a bit of Lopeti's ball carrying too. It's six of one, half a dozen of the other but we decided that was probably an important thing for this game and that's how we'll run."

Players to watch:

For Ireland: If Ireland want to be victorious, much will depend on the performance of their scrum-half Conor Murray. It is no coincidence that Ireland's triumphs over the Springboks and the All Blacks were registered thanks to scintillating performances in those matches from the Munster stalwart. Murray delivers an outstanding service to his outside backs and combines well with his forwards. He also has an eye for the gap and will keep the Wallaby defenders busy around the fringes of the rucks and mauls.

For Australia: The visitors' star player is their full-back Israel Folau who, despite being on an eight-match tryless streak – which is the longest of his career – showed in the narrow win over Scotland a fortnight ago that he still is a genuine threat with ball in hand. Folau's habit of breaking through tackles makes him a handful to opposition defenders and his superb offloading game creates try-scoring opportunties for his team-mates.

Head to head: The clash between the captains – Ireland's Rory Best and Stephen Moore of Australia – will be worth the entrance fee or television subscription alone as both players are crucial to their respective team's causes. The two hookers are both hard-nosed individuals who seldom take a backward step as they bid to give their respective sides much needed momentum. Well, something's got to give when they square off this weekend and don't be surprised when the player who comes out on top in this duel also leads his team to victory. Best will have extra motivation to do well as he is playing in his 100th Test.

Recent results:

2014: Ireland won 26-23 in Dublin
2013: Australia won 32-15 in Dublin
2011: Ireland won 15-6 in Auckland (RWC)
2010: Australia won 22-15 in Brisbane
2009: The sides drew 20-20 in Dublin
2008: Australia won 18-12 in Melbourne
2006: Ireland won 21-6 in Dublin
2006: Australia won 37-15 in Perth
2005: Australia won, 30-14 in Dublin
 
Prediction: These are two evenly matched teams and this match is destined to go down to the wire. The forward battle will be vital and that's where the home side has a slight edge. Ireland to win by three points!

The teams:

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Garry Ringrose, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Simon Zebo

Australia: 15 Israel Folau 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements (one to be omitted): 16 Tolu Latu, 17 James Slipper, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Sean McMahon, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Quade Cooper, 24 Sefanaia Naivalu

Date: Saturday, November 26
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Time: 17:30 local
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant Referees: JP Doyle (England), Craig Maxwell-Keys (England)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

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