David Pocock versus Dan Leavy and other key battles ahead of Australia v Ireland

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Ireland will be looking to avenge their first Test defeat when they face the Wallabies for the second of their three match series on Saturday (14:00 UAE time).

Here, we take a look at three key battles which could decide the outcome of the match in Melbourne.

DAVID POCOCK V DAN LEAVY

The Leinster man wasn’t included in the matchday squad for the first Test due to injury, but looks primed to contain the dominance of Pocock in Melbourne.

The 24-year-old has been instrumental this season for Leinster and Ireland with his strong offloading, solid carrying and smoking footwork all serious threats.

A high class operator at the breakdown, Leavy will need to cut down the impact of Pocock – with the Wallabies star having a field day against the Irish last Saturday.

The Brumbies man was making his first appearance last week since December 2016 and was a nuisance at the breakdown.

He made seven carries for 10 metres gained, made 15 tackles, won four turnovers, had a staggering 56 ruck involvements, claimed two line outs and scored a late try.

It might seem like a mammoth test for Leavy, but his ability to tackle, win his own ball and show willingness in the tight areas may help stem the Zimbabwean’s supremacy.

Although there is a vast level of experience between the duo, expect it to be a humdinger of a battle.

BERNARD FOLEY V JOHNNY SEXTON

The best out-half in the Northern Hemisphere returns to the starting line-up after being left on the bench for the first Test defeat in Brisbane.

The 32-year-old’s addition to the starting XV brings more to the table in terms of game management skills, kicking from hand and an ability to get the back-line moving at pace.

He can pin his opponents back deep into their own territory, with his game management skills critical to how the Men in Green perform in the 10-12 axis.

But his opposite number is one of just several obstacles standing in his way of Ireland’s threat in this area, with Foley part of a Wallabies back-line that can attack from any position.

Foley has chalked up 556 points from 56 Tests, at an average of 9.92 points a game, while Sexton has scored 683 points from 80 for an 8.53 average.

The 28-year-old – a try scorer in the first Test – can orchestrate the game from ten and with Will Genia alongside him in the half-backs, he will once again look to upset the tempo of Ireland.

Although Sexton’s kicking from tee has been off colour this season, he can still cause serious damage with ball in hand and solidity in defence. Will be central to Saturday’s result.

FRONT ROW

The Wallabies scrum was a massive strength in the first Test and Ireland will need to marshal this area if they are to gain a foothold in the contest.

Sio and Kepu were major parts of the Wallabies’ granite-like defence in Brisbane, with the latter in particular, shining with nine tackles and one turnover.

The Waratahs warrior remains a reliable presence, but his front-row partner Sio needs to make more of a contribution on the ground if they are to cut down the impact of a mighty Irish front three which features Healy and Furlong.

Furlong, the best tighthead in the world, is an imposing presence and always has the edge in the scrum, but he’ll need plenty of assistance from Healy to get the upperhand on a dominant Wallabies forward unit.

The Wallabies purred with confidence last Saturday, but with the return of first choice stars, Ireland will hoping to step up against Michael Cheika’s side.

Set up to be one of the tightest battles on the pitch.

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Johnny Sexton returns for Ireland as Joe Schmidt rings the changes against Australia

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Back in the team: Johnny Sexton

Johnny Sexton has returned to Ireland’s starting line-up after Joe Schmidt overhauled his team in a bid to stay in contention against Australia.

Sexton was a key component in Ireland’s Grand Slam success earlier this year but was surprisingly benched for the first Test in Brisbane.

Beaten 18-9 last weekend, Ireland must win in Melbourne on Saturday to keep their three-match series victory hopes alive.

In an effort to make that happen Schmidt has made eight alterations to his team, which Ireland announced on Thursday. Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, meanwhile, will field an unchanged line-up.

Returning to Ireland’s starting XV alongside fly-half Sexton are Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy, while Joey Carbery drops to the sidelines.

Schmidt had justified keeping Sexton on the bench in the first Test because he wanted to give Carbery the best opportunity to shine on the international stage.

Niall Scannell completes the new-look front row alongside Furlong and Healy, while Brisbane starter James Ryan is joined in the second row by Devin Toner.

Absent from the team sheet in Queensland, flanker Dan Leavy also returns to the starting line-up in the back row with captain Peter O’Mahony, with CJ Stander unchanged at number eight.

After starting in Brisbane, Conor Murray resumes scrum-half duties, while Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose are brought in as centres.

Andrew Conway takes up Keith Earls’s position at 14, while Earls is moved to 11, and first Test starter Rob Kearney lines up at full-back.

Munster’s Tadhg Beirne is set for his first cap after being named among the reserves alongside Rob Herring, Jack McGrath, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Jordan Larmour and Carbery.

TEAM: Kearney (Leinster), Conway (Munster), Ringrose (Leinster), Henshaw (Leinster), Earls (Munster), Sexton (Leinster), Murray (Munster); Healy (Leinster), Scannell (Munster), Furlong (Leinster), Ryan (Leinster), Toner (Leinster), O’Mahony (Munster), Leavy (Leinster), Stander (Munster).


Replacements: Herring (Ulster), McGrath (Leinster), Porter (Leinster), Beirne (Scarlets), Murphy (Leinster), Cooney (Ulster), Carbery (Leinster), Larmour (Leinster).

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England lock Joe Launchbury declared fit for second Test against South Africa

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England have been given a lift ahead of their second Test against South Africa Joe Launchbury with the news that Joe Launchbury has been declared fit.

Launchbury was ruled out of the series opener at Ellis Park with a calf injury sustained in training before Eddie Jones’ squad departed and faced a race against time to be ready for Saturday’s Bloemfontein showdown.

But on Wednesday morning the Wasps captain was able to train with the squad for the first time since arriving in South Africa – and he is set to be drafted straight into the starting line-up.

“Joe Launchbury trained today (Wednesday) and trained well. He’s done a great job with his rehabilitation and is available for selection,” forwards coach Steve Borthwick said.

Launchbury will partner Maro Itoje in the second row for the Free State Stadium showdown as England stage their attempt to take the series to a decider in Cape Town, having been defeated 42-39 in the first Test.

The Wasps captain’s physical presence was missed at Ellis Park and in his absence 20-year-old Nick Isiekwe deputised, only to be substituted three minutes before half-time.

“Having a player of Joe’s quality available is great. Even though he hasn’t been playing he’s been absolutely brilliant around the squad,” Borthwick said.

“He’s a big lock but is also very talented. You can see his ability to run in the loose but also his ability in the tight.

“He’s very good around the maul, both in attack and defence. He’s a very good scrummager.”

Borthwick, who also revealed that third choice loosehead prop Ellis Genge has undergone a scan on a thigh issue, insists England remain buoyant despite seeing the first Test slip from their grasp having established a 21-point lead.

“We’re clearly disappointed by the defeat but there’s also a positivity about certain aspects of the game, such as that first 20 minutes,” he said.

“It was also positive that we got ourselves back into the game and took it close in the end. We have great resolve and determination to get the result we want this weekend.”

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