Preview: Australia v Ireland

Date published: June 14 2018

Ireland will be looking to turn around a 1-0 deficit when they take on Australia at AAMI Park in the second Test between the sides on Saturday.

Last weekend it was a case of Ireland exerting the majority of the pressure without being able to capitalise on their dominance, whereas the Wallabies soaked up the pressure brilliantly and were much more clinical on the few occasions they got deep into opposition territory.

However, this is a much more experienced Ireland side, with influential figures including Johnny Sexton, Cian Healy and Devin Toner among others making their return to the starting line-up. So it should be a tougher proposition for the Wallabies, who remain unchanged from last weekend’s hard-fought 18-9 win.

Tadhg Beirne has been named as a replacement and could make his debut should he run out on the field at AAMI Park. The prospect of him linking up with James Ryan in the second-row is a mouth-watering one indeed.

But it is the return of Sexton that should make all the difference. Joey Carbery was a bit like a deer in the headlights in the face of the Wallabies’ rush defence last weekend, whereas Sexton is more adept at being able to vary his game by either sitting back in the pocket or taking the ball to the line.

One loss won’t define this Irish team, who had previously won their last 18 on the bounce. But in the Wallabies, they face a settled unit, with Michael Cheika naming the same matchday 23 for the second match in a row for the first time in his tenure. David Pocock was a real nuisance to the Emerald Isle in the first Test and will need to be thwarted at the breakdown area, having won at least five turnovers last weekend.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has sought to counter this by picking Dan Leavy, who is a keen contester at the breakdown and has enjoyed a fantastic season with Leinster in which he’s shown his big-match temperament with some immense performances for his province.

With Australia’s defence looking very solid at present, it could be that the team to win it is whichever gets their noses in front early on in what should be another tight game.

Players to watch:

For Australia: With rugby being a 23-man game, we’ve gone for replacement prop Taniela Tupou here. The ‘Tongan Thor’ made an instant impact off the bench last weekend, pushing the Irish scrum backwards with his first set-piece and winning a crucial penalty for his side in a low-scoring encounter. Tupou, while known for his ball-carrying abilities, has sometimes been criticised for not prioritising his core duties. But judging from his performance in Brisbane, Tupou looks a more mature, rounded player ready to take on increased responsibility within the squad. Hopefully, Michael Cheika gives the hot prospect a few more minutes at the back-end.

For Ireland: The return of Jonathan Sexton is massive for Ireland. Both defensively and in attack he leads by example and Australia’s backline will find life much tougher – and louder – with Sexton facing them. If he can shore up the Irish defence and spark attacks with his devastating distribution and running game, Ireland should come out on top.

Head-to-head: It might have been his first professional defeat, but James Ryan’s meteoric rise continues unabated. The physically imposing lock produced another impressive display last weekend. Ryan is regarded as one of the best players in the world, despite being only 21. He comes up against the Melbourne Rebels captain Adam Coleman, who will be keen to put in a big performance in front of his home crowd. Coleman will need to watch his discipline, as it has let him down in recent times. It should be a confrontational encounter.

Previous results:

2018: Australia won 18-9 in Brisbane
2016: Ireland won 27-24 in Dublin
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

Prediction: The tourists to bounce back. Ireland by eight.

The teams:

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Caleb Timu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 David Pocock, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Lukhan Tui, 21 Pete Samu, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Reece Hodge

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 James Ryan, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Jordan Larmour

Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gaüzère (France), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)