#360View: Ireland can beat Australia

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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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#360debate: Should Owen Farrell be axed?

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Under pressure: Owen Farrell tries to escape the attentions of Victor Matfield at Twickenham on Saturday.

After a poor display against South Africa, questions have been raised about Owen Farrell's place in the England team ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Our #360debate today is: Should Farrell be axed?

Martyn Thomas, Reporter, thinks YES

England’s disappointing autumn has been characterised by indecision and indifference behind the scrum. 

Owen Farrell has been ponderous and his decision-making poor, and while not the only player under performing, it is time to look at alternatives.

Fly-half is a pivotal position at the top level as it is the No10 who sets the pace and tempo of the game, and ultimately provides the territory that is so important.

On too many occasions against South Africa, Farrell simply chose the wrong option and put his side in danger.

Early on he eschewed a kick to run the ball out from under his posts. The Saracens man did the first bit well, but then inexplicably played Anthony Watson into trouble instead of clearing his lines.

In the second half he made a complete hash of a couple of cross-field kicks when he had numbers out wide, and in general the Red Rose looked more dangerous when their pack decided to take on playmaking responsibilities themselves.

That does not mean that Stuart Lancaster does not possess ability in his backline, but by persisting with Farrell he is not getting the most out of them. Game management is not a strong point for the Saracens man and he requires someone outside of him to help take the burden of decision making off him. 

Unfortunately, Kyle Eastmond, while an exciting player, does not possess the requisite kicking game to do that. One man who does is Billy Twelvetrees, and Lancaster may well decide to bring him back in but that would seem a regressive measure – diminishing the overall quality of the midfield, to mask the deficiencies of the golden boy.

Instead, England must be brave and give a chance to George Ford, who has forged a frightening relationship with Eastmond at club level and could hold the key to unlocking the side’s potential. Changes will be made for the Samoa test on Saturday, but Ford must be allowed to show what he can do against Australia a week later.

With time running out ahead of the World Cup, and with the likes of Danny Cipriani, Stephen Myler and Freddie Burns also available, Lancaster’s blind faith in Farrell is verging on the ridiculous.

Matthew Jones, Reporter, thinks NO

Owen Farrell did not have a great game against South Africa, but dropping him is not the answer.

There were plenty of other miscreants in white guilty of sinning against the Springboks, and far more senior, experienced internationals than the 23-year-old fly-half.

Farrell is a solid goal-kicker, a physical specimen, a natural leader and a strong character who relishes the big occasion.

Critics are clamouring for coach Stuart Lancaster to give in-form Bath back George Ford the nod against Samoa, but is the 21-year-old the answer?

And if Ford does play, it should not be at the expense of Farrell, but alongside him. Switch Farrell to inside centre, to provide England with a natural kicker, and put Ford at 10.

The pair were a devastating combination at age-group level, when they lost just two games in five years. Ford was the Premiership’s top points scorer in 2013/14 with 250.

Farrell was fifth but played seven games fewer and his 157 points in comparison still project him in a favourable light, giving him 11.2 average points a game, compared to Ford’s 11.9.

It was an injury-hit campaign for Farrell and it must be remembered he is coming back from a lay-off at the moment. He is rusty, but fitness and form will return.

What he won’t lose and what other players will fail to match is his intensity and spirit.

He scored nearly half of England’s points (17) when they pulled off one of the greatest victories of recent times less than two years ago, dismantling New Zealand 38-21.

When he was 19 he led Sarries to their first trophy since 1998 with a 17-point match-winning display in the 2011 Premiership final win over Leicester Tigers.

England have lost their last five games, but four of those defeats came against the world champions, the other against the Springboks.

The Red Rose have no other fly-half who can match Farrell’s drive.

Lancaster needs as many leaders as possible at the moment and Farrell fits that mould. He has proven he has the character to bounce back from this dip in form.

What is your opinion? Leave your comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #360debate.

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International rugby round-up: South Africa edge England, Wales beat Fiji

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Racing through: Jan Serfontein celebrates the opening try of the match.

South Africa edged England 31-28 in a nail-biting one-off Test match at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Springboks led 13-6 at half-time, Owen Farrell's two penalties cancelled out by an intercept try by centre Jan Serfontein, Pat Lambie kicking the conversion and two penalties.

Cobus Reinach added a second South African try shortly after the break, but England, with Victor Matfield in the sinbin, hit back with a brace of tries from prop David Wilson and replacement No 8 Ben Morgan, both converted by Farrell.

Schalk Burger handed South Africa back the lead, England hooker Dylan Hartley sin-binned for stamping.

Lambie and George Ford traded penalties before the Springbok fly-half hit a 77nd minute drop-goal, Brad Barritt grabbing a late consolation try for the home side.

Elsewhere, Wales beat Fiji 17-13 – also a one-off Test – at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

In a disappointinly error-ridden game, the home side scored three first-half tries through wingers George North and Alex Cuthbert, and a penalty try, the latter converted by Rhys Priestland.

Fiji, who saw prop Campese Ma'afu sent off in the 52nd minute after a second yellow card, replied with two Nemani Nadolo penalties, the giant centre grabbing a 78th intercept try he also converted.

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