The return of Johnny Sexton and Garry Ringrose will boost Ireland’s chances in their quest to level the Test series against the Wallabies in Melbourne on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.

Ireland will still be reeling from last Saturday’s below-par performance that saw them lose 18-9 in Brisbane.

The Irish were favourites, having won 12 Tests in a row, but struggled to breach the Wallabies’ defence. Even the ‘Leinster loop’ – a wraparound move Ireland’s Leinster contingent has perfected for club and country – didn’t have the desired effect.

Joe Schmidt has changed Ireland’s team accordingly, with Sexton coming on for Joey Carbery at flyhalf, Andrew Conway replacing Jacob Stockdale in the back three and Ringrose starting in the midfield ahead of Bundee Aki.

There are multiple changes in the pack. Flank Dan Leavy, lock Devin Toner and an all-new front row of Tadhg Furlong, Niall Scannell and Cian Healy come into the starting lineup, with Tadhg Beirne on the bench.

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Ireland have to find a way to counter the threat of David Pocock – and to some extent Michael Hooper – at the breakdown. Pocock rattled Ireland’s cages, so much so that Irish writer Neil Francis ludicrously described him as ‘a cancer on the game’.

The introduction of Beirne later in the match could limit Pocock’s influence. He was the best loose forward in the recently concluded Pro14 and will be eager to show he can do a similar job for his country.

With Ireland fighting to keep the series alive and the Wallabies out to clinch it, it’s nicely set up for another riveting contest.

Wallabies – 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.
Subs: 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, 5 Devin Toner, 4 James Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Joey Carbery 23 Jordan Larmour.

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Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images 

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