Match Preview: Australia vs Ireland

Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday 17th Sep 8:30pm (NZT)
Head-to-head: Played 29, Australia 20, Ireland 8, Drawn 1
Last meeting: Australia 22 beat Ireland 15 in Brisbane 2010
Last meeting at a World Cup: Australia 17 beat Ireland 16 in Melbourne (Pool stage 2003)

Team news: Robbie Deans has given a start to James O’Connor, who was superb off the bench against Italy. O’Connor scored a try and his entrance into the game gave the Australians the spark they were missing in the first half. The versatile back has taken the place of injured Digby Ioane, who has been ruled out with a broken hand. Ireland welcome back Sean O’Brien, Rob Kearney and Cian Healy for the game. Kearney will look to add something extra to a back line that was rather flat in their opener, while O’Brien and Healy come into the pack which decimated the Americans.

Form: Australia struggled against Italy in the first half, handling errors in attacking positions, poor option taking and some wayward goal kicking saw them go into the break locked at six all. The second half was a completely different story, the Australians ran in four unanswered tries to blow away the Italians. Ireland continued to struggle for form in their win over the USA in New Plymouth. The dominance in the scrum, possession and territory was seldom turned into to points, scoring only three tries and failing to gain a bonus point. Not the ideal buildup to this important match.

Prediction: The Australian scrum has been a weak link over the years, but it has been steadily improving of late, and showed that it is now a forced to be reckoned with against the strong Italian scrum. With Ireland’s superb showing against Italy, this will be a key match-up. Ireland’s defence was tight and only conceded one try against USA, but the a back line containing Beale, O’Connor, Cooper and Genia is a different kettle of fish. They will have to come up in a line and limit Coopers space if they are to win. If any back in world rugby is able to stop the daunting Wallabies team its Brian O’Driscoll. But the Australian fire power out wide, complimented by their industrious pack should be too much for Ireland.
Australia by 12

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Anthony Fainga’a, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Radike Samo, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 James Horwill (capt), 4 Dan Vickerman, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Drew Mitchell.

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O’Driscoll (capt), 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul O’Connell, 5 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tom Court, 18 Donnacha Ryan, 19 Denis Leamy, 20 Conor Murray, 21 Ronan O’Gara, 22 Andrew Trimble.

By Alex Barlow-Smith