Friday, November 21, 2014

Preview : #IRLvAUS


If we choose to let them, two of sport's most boring concepts can enter the conversation surrounding Sunday's clash at the Aviva Stadium - World rankings and the 3rd place playoff.

I'm actually not as critical of the ranking system as many are...given  test nations can't all play each other every year, some kind of system has to be used and even if it does use brain-melting maths, so long as we persist with it, it surely can't have any fewer flaws than an alternative method.

And what the latest bout of number-crunching means is that essentially this is akin to the one match at any World Cup (click here for Rugby World Cup tickets) in which no team really wants to be involved...the winner will sit third in the world, and incidentally if it's a draw the spot will go to the Wallabies.

Joe says it's a distraction, and he's right, though for a coach who craves as much time with his squad as he does, anything outside plotting and scheming at Carton House for the next mission would be considered as such.  

Not that this contest needs rankings to provide the hype.  The second Michael Cheika was handed his current job by the ARU, the rumblings of an "ex-Leinster coach showdown" began, though it must be noted that successful and all as these two great coaches have been at the highest provincial level, they have but 14 tests between them.

All told, I really don't think either coach needs all that context to motivate their squads.  The occasion itself should do that for them.  But at least gives us plenty to harp on beforehand!

OK - time to finally focus on the match.  Interesting selection for Ireland - after the clinical dispatching of the Springboks the  changes were bound to be minimal but they are still worthy of examination -

Best for Cronin - Leinster goggles aside, this is the right choice for me.  Rory would have started against the Boks if fit and before his injury against the All Blacks last year we all saw the type of leadership he can bring to the side.  That's not to take anything away from Cronin but for this Ireland side his ball carrying can be of great use off the bench and there's a certain Mr J Heaslip there to take up that particular role in the meantime.

Darcy for Henshaw, Henshaw for Payne - Much like Rory, a sensible choice based on experience.  Darce didn't exactly light things up last week but he was rarely called upon.  This pairing could be the making of young Henshaw in the green 13 jumper.

Nobody for Zebo - Raised an eyebrow when I saw he was starting for the third week in a row - thought Jones or even Gilroy could have nipped ahead of him from last week but I guess Joe was thinking that to make that switch from the Springboks would suggest Simon was awful which he wasn't.  This could well be a last chance saloon for him though.  With Adam Ashley-Cooper guarding his channel the chances out wide will be at a premium so it will up to him to be the type of winger Joe Scmidt wants him to be.

Foley for McCarthy - We'll never know but I have a feeling Mike would have kept his place were he available on account of his offering such a different option to POC & Dev.  Still, there's no doubting that Foley earned his call and will be another good ball carrying option off the bench.

So...how to beat the Wallabies?  Well that's an almost impossible question to answer given that at least the first half is bound to be something of a chess match.

Australia won't present the predictable front which the Boks & All Blacks tend to do.  There are bound to be curveballs, definitely in their opening salvos and possibly even in the nature of their lineup before kickoff (for example I wouldn't bat an eyelid if it turned out that Quade Cooper was starting).  This presents Joe & his crew with a new set of challenges, but they are ones they are bound to be more than ready for.

For me it all centres around our half-backs.  Once Murray & Sexton can mix things up from an early stage and keep the Wallaby defence guessing, then opportunities are bound to arise.  Also if we are to resort to the kicking game at any stage, accuracy is an absolute must as there will be deep attacking Wallaby options on the park for the entire 80 minutes.

But let's at least get ready for one thing...a low scoring first half.  BOTH matches at the Aviva so far this November have resulted in less than 10 points in total before the interval and with what should be two well-drilled defences involved, things could very well be the same.

It could boil down to how the two sides come out for the second half...while the Wallabies have shown themselves to be good at adapting to what their opposition have thrown at them, they may not have the time if we come out from the break as strongly as we have the past two weeks.

Mattie Williams threw down an interesting gauntlet during the week, suggesting that if we lose this then we'll continue to be a side which is good at pulling off "once-off" good performances against top sides in wet conditions.

I'm not sure that's entirely fair...for example, though the Wallabies deserved to lose in Paris last week, when you take away that one piece of brilliance from Teddy Thomas they would have won.  So I'm not sure if defeat in what should be a close contest can necessarily  lead to Mattie's conclusion.

As fans, all we can do is put our trust in Joe to have them ready and cheer them on until are voices go hoarse.  The eyes of the rugby world will be on the Aviva Stadium on Saturday - even though it is "only" for third place, this is hands down the top match of the weekend.

The bookies have us by 2 - they have been eerily accurate this season for the most part (just out by the one point v Georgia last week) and for once this season I am going to be less conservative and tap us to win by 6 points.  Should stay close throughout but I like the look of our bench.

All I want now is for the match to kick off.  Thankfully there's a ton of rugby tonight and at lunchtime tomorrow to help pass the time!

See you on the other side!

#ShoulderToShoulder #JLP

note : our Treviso v Leinster preview will post tomorrow lunchtime

AUSTRALIA : 15 Israel Folau 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper 13 Tevita Kuridrani 12 Matt Toomua 11 Henry Speight 10 Bernard Foley 9 Nick Phipps
1 James Slipper 2 Saia Fainga'a 3 Sekope Kepu 4 Sam Carter 5 Rob Simmons 6 Luke Jones 7 Michael Hooper 8 Ben McCalman
BENCH 16 James Hanson 17 Benn Robinson 18 Tetera Faulkner 19 Will Skelton 20 Jake Schatz 21 Will Genia 22 Quade Cooper 23 Kurtley Beale

Guinness Series
Saturday 22nd November 2014, KO 16:30
Aviva Stadium

Ref: Glen Jackson (NZRU)
AR1: Nigel Owens (WRU)
AR2: Mike Frazer (NZRU)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (FFR)
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