Australia will be looking to keep their Grand Slam aspirations alive when they take on the Irish in Dublin this Saturday.
Michael Cheika’s men take on the Irish in their penultimate 2016 fixture, and there is a huge amount on the line for this one with world rankings points to play for and a chance for the Wallabies to stay in contention for a Grand Slam.
Ireland v Australia | Saturday 26 November | Aviva Stadium | 16:30
To Win (80 Mins)
Ireland 92/100 | Draw 20/1 | Australia 92/100
Joe Schmidt’s men were desperately unlucky to not make more of their game against New Zealand last week. While they were definitely the second best team on the day, they really didn’t deserve to go down by a 12 point score line.
While the loss would have heart Schmidt and his men mentally, the game also took a physical toll on the Irish with Robbie Henshaw and Jonny Sexton ruled out through injury. Henshaw’s place in the centres will be taken by exciting youngster Gary Ringrose while Paddy Jackson comes in for Sexton at 10. Simon Zebo is also struggling with fatigue and has been dropped to the bench with veteran Keith Earls coming into the vacant fullback berth.
As I touched on in the above, Ireland’s Test against New Zealand was a real physical one and I suspect a few members of this Irish pack won’t have recovered fully by the time Saturday rolls around. As such, the Irish bench will have a big role to play with the likes of Sean Cronin and Cian Healy likely to be paramount to the host's cause.
Schmidt will have to box smart with his second half substitutions. The timing of these subs could prove key as the Irish simply cannot afford to allow the Australians to take a substantial advantage into the final thirty minutes of the fixture especially with Australian pivot Bernard Foley in such a rich vein of kicking form.
Unlike the Irish, the Wallabies managed to upset the bookies last week by beating favourites, France. While it was by no means a polished performance by the Wallabies, they can take a lot of heart from manner in which youngster Kyle Godwin stepped up to the plate. Yes, he had a few nervy moments but he didn’t look entirely out of his depth.
Cheika has gone for a more experienced side this week so we won’t see Godwin in action again for a while. His inside-centre berth is taken by fellow youngster Reece Hodge. Other changes to the Wallaby run on XV see a front row revamp with Scott Sio, Stephen Moore and Sekope Kepu coming in. Rob Simons will be joined by Rory Arnold in the second row with Dean Mumm shifting to the side of the scrum.
I suspect Cheika will instruct his side to play at a breakneck pace so as to expose Ireland’s fatigue. They have the back line to do this but the forward pack will have to come to the party and make sure their set piece, which has been a bit of a lottery this year, is on point.
Verdict: Australia 92/100
Ireland are likely to be feeling the effects of last week’s battle of attrition with the All Blacks. I feel that the Wallabies will exploit this with a strong final 20 minutes which sees them to a win.