#360View: Ireland can beat Australia

Martyn Thomas 16:30 22/11/2014
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Ready for action: Ireland's fly half Ian Madigan prepares to fire his team to victory.

Ireland have a massive opportunity to cement their place in international rugby’s elite as they welcome Australia to Dublin.

 Lewis Moody: 'England are good enough to beat South Africa'

– Vermeulen confident South Africa will bounce back at Twickenham

And although two of Leinster’s most successful coaches go head-to-head at the Aviva Stadium today, personal pride will not be high on the agenda for either Joe Schmidt or Michael Cheika.

If Ireland win again today it will be the first time since 2006 that they have finished the autumn unbeaten and will get a considerable fillip ahead of the 2015 World Cup.

Victory over the Springboks a fortnight ago, allied with the rather more routine win over Georgia last time out, ensures Ireland start as favourites – and rightly so.

Although under Schmidt they might not play the kind of rugby that sets pulses racing, their performance in beating the Springboks hinted at their potential if they stick to his structures. 

They will know too, though, that they cannot afford to play the same way if they want to secure a seventh win in a row.

Against South Africa, Ireland eschewed possession in order to avoid a wrestling match-up front.

This is not a tactic that will work against the Wallabies, who for all their problems off the field remain one of the most potent attacking units on it.

In their two full tests in Europe under Cheika, they have scored five tries, three of which came in the win over Wales when they played for large parts without the ball.

Kicking possession away will only invite pressure onto Ireland, with Israel Folau the best counter-attacking full-back in the world at the moment, and the Wallabies as a whole extremely adept at finding mismatches in broken play.

With Cheika also being able to call on Will Genia, Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale from the bench, Schmidt may feel that his side will need to be comfortably in front going into the final quarter.

In order to put themselves in that position, Ireland must target the scrum.

Australia have rarely pulled their weight in this department and, with skipper Michael Hooper showing signs of tiredness after a long season, it is an area that the notoriously meticulous Schmidt is sure to have pinpointed.

Captain Paul O’Connell and No8 Jamie Heaslip will have a duty in terms of ball carrying, breaking the gain line, and ensuring that Ireland play in the Australian half.

If they can secure that territory then the scoreboard should keep ticking over as Jonny Sexton continues to stake his claim as the northern hemisphere’s most complete fly-half.

Defeat would be deflating rather than damaging for Australia and their new coach.

But at a time when England have struggled to take the next-step victory, for Ireland it would only strengthen their standing as World Cup contenders.

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