Ireland will go into Saturday’s Test series decider against the Wallabies in Sydney as slight favourites.
While the Six Nations champions suffered an 18-9 loss in Brisbane, they bounced back well in Melbourne with a 26-21 win – their first against the Wallabies in Australia since 1979 – that was more convincing than the scoreline suggests.
Ireland did well to combat the aerial threat of Israel Folau and bossed the breakdown. They also dominated possession and territory, enjoying 75% of both halves before Australia fought back late in the game.
Ireland will therefore be confident of claiming a historic 2-1 series win Down Under, and the bookies seem to agree, having given them a four-point headstart.
Physically, the Wallabies were found wanting against the fired-up Ireland forwards last week. As a result, coach Michael Cheika has dropped Caleb Timu and shifted Michael Hooper to No 8, with Lukhan Tui coming in to make his first Test start at blindside flank.
Australia will be without the crisp service of scrumhalf Will Genia, who broke his arm last week and has been replaced in the starting XV by Nick Phipps. Phipps’ performance, when measured against that of the world-class Conor Murray, could play a big part in determining the outcome of this clash.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has continued to rotate his players in this series, with wing Jacob Stockdale, centre Bundee Aki, No 8 Jack Conan, hooker Sean Cronin and prop Jack McGrath coming into the starting lineup.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Lukhan Tui, 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 Ned Hanigan, 21 Pete Samu, 22 Joe Powell, 23 Reece Hodge.
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Peter O’Mahony, 6 CJ Stander, 5 James Ryan, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Cian Healy, 18 John Ryan, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Jordan Lamour.
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