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Preview: Ireland v Australia

14th November 2013 22:30

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Ireland celebrate 2011 win

Last meeting: RWC 2011 Pools

It has been just over two years since Ireland shook up the Rugby World Cup draw by overcoming Australia in Pool C. Much has changed since Auckland.

That defeat sent the tournament dark horse Wallabies into the so-called tougher side of the format where they eventually fell to New Zealand.

Dust settled in the following months before eventually both Declan Kidney and Robbie Deans departed to be replaced by Joe Schmidt and Ewen McKenzie respectively. One's enjoyed more of a promising start to his Test tenure than the other but are things looking up for Australia?

A win in Italy saw glimpses of the style the Reds adopted in their pomp, but how much we read into it against that opposition keeps the jury out.

There are positives such as Matt Toomua bedding in nicely alongside Brumbies team-mate Tevita Kuridrani and when Scott Higginbotham eventually returns from injury, they should have a balanced back-row. Remember that openside David Pocock is also an ongoing absentee.

The Irish meanwhile began their Schmidt era in promising fashion as they comfortably dispatched Samoa 40-9 in a game we thought would be much closer. Maybe there is a revival coming ahead of the Six Nations, with a November finale with New Zealand set to give them a good gauge upon which to measure. That Aviva Stadium fixture already excites.

Like the Wallabies, the Irish have a number twelve they should stick with. Luke Marshall has potential that we have seen in an Ulster jersey and Jared Payne will also soon become eligible - possibly to take over at thirteen instead of full-back once Brian O'Driscoll retires.

Schmidt though talked the veteran into continuing in the jersey and he is one of ten 2013 British and Irish Lions in the 23. They are Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien, Paul O'Connell, Rory Best and Cian Healy.

Experience aplenty we are sure you will agree and it is also interesting that eleven of the starting XV began that fine Rugby World Cup victory over the Wallabies at Eden Park.

Australia in contrast have newer blood but take nothing away from the familiarity their side has gained from their recent busy schedule - and also confidence from Turin - and this should lead to a fluency from McKenzie's men. That is of course if their set-piece holds up.

Sekope Kepu is tasked with keeping things steady at tighthead but he will have a job on his hands against Healy and company as Ireland will not follow Italy's capitulation. And as we know, Australia in an expansive game versus an arm-wrestle are two different animals.

Ones to watch:

For Ireland: The last time Jonathan Sexton was up against the Wallabies it was as a try scorer for the British and Irish Lions. He will be swapping red for green this week as his return sees Paddy Jackson drop out of the squad altogether. Sexton's performance will be key to how Ireland operate, while his combination with former Leinster team-mate, Eoin Reddan, could well have been a selection tilter for new head coach Joe Schmidt.

For Australia: Stopping the Wallabies up front will be half the battle for Ireland as it would go some way to reducing the front-foot ball Quade Cooper gets to utilise for the likes of Nick Cummins and Israel Folau. Folau was superb against the Azzurri last weekend, as was Cummins, and if the full-back sees plenty of ball, Australia will cause the Irish problems.

Head-to-head: Ireland loosehead Cian Healy will be determined to ask questions of Wallaby tighthead Sekope Kepu, who must have the answers for as long as he's on the field. Kepu has yet to convince that he is Australia's number one tighthead after several indifferent efforts in the gold jersey. But, with Ben Alexander having been rested by head coach Ewen McKenzie, Saturday poses a big opportunity for the Waratahs prop. Meanwhile, Healy will also be eager to make a statement after Jack McGrath was last week's man-of-the-match.

Recent results:

2011: Ireland won 15-6 in Auckland
2010: Australia won 22-15 in Brisbane
2009: 20-20 draw 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
2003: Australia won 17-16 in Melbourne
2003: Australia won 45-16 in Perth

Prediction: Australia have the tools but we expect them to fall to Ireland, just, by about 5!

The teams:

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Mike McCarthy, 20 Kevin McLaughlin, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Robbie Henshaw.

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen (capt), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Sitaleki Timani, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nic White, 22 Christian Leali'ifano, 23 Joe Tomane.

Date: Saturday, November 16
Kick-off: 17:45 GMT
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Television match official: Geoff Warren (England)
Assessor: Tappe Henning (South Africa)

By Adam Kyriacou
@PlanetRugbyAK

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