The Wallabies Might Need The Luck Of The Irish In Tonight's Test
If I had to crystal ball the series I would say it’s looking as cloudy as an Irish morning.
An Irishman and an Australian walk into a bar. The Irishman turns the Aussie and says, “Guess what?”
“What?” says the Aussie.
“We are world number two!” cries the Irishman.
Silence from the Aussie.
Right now those are the undisputed facts. Throw in Six Nations champions and the men from the Emerald Isle come with an outstanding resume as they get set to take on our Wallabies in a three-test Series starting tonight in Brissie.
Australia has enjoyed success over Ireland through history, but you could say the Irish have caught up to, and even gone past us.
You always want play the best in the world and that benchmark has always been New Zealand. The Wallabies get that opportunity in the Rugby Championship in about two months time, but the immediate attention has to be turned to an Irish team brimming with confidence.
This success hasn’t happened overnight -- at times for the Irish it has been a struggle, but with persistence and belief, the way these guys have been going around their business has been very impressive.
The Forward pack, albeit without their influential captain and Hooker Rory Best, has dominated throughout Europe, and now look to swathe a path on our Aussie pack.
The scrum is solid, the lineout is efficient with the ability to throw the ball to two, four and six jumpers. They have creativity and craftiness that, when needed, can conjure up inventive set plays, and when those big blokes up front have the ball in hand, they have some serious rugby nous. So like any back, they applaud when the forwards set a platform to be able to play from.
Now, if you’re able to get ascendancy from your forward pack, great, if the worst-case is parity, you can then start to play with the ball. Anytime the pack goes backwards, it means you are struggling to gain momentum to play and push forward. That’s called back-foot ball. And that helps no one.
Now the guys who are benefiting from front-foot ball are the players wearing the numbers nine to 15. The reason why, the game of rugby is about pace and pressure and getting over the advantage line. The faster you can execute a play, and do that under pressure, means you have more time and space, and if you watch the good players, they seem they have lots of time and lots of space.
The great example for the Irish is the number 10 Jonathan Sexton, who is undoubtedly one of the premier fly-halves in world rugby. To put it simply he has a passing game, a running game and a kicking game. Perhaps his best attribute, however, is that he is a world class goal kicker, a points scoring machine. Surprisingly he will start on the bench, which is a blessing in disguise for the Wallabies.
So what’s the sense of occasion for the Wallabies?
History shows us that Ireland have won three of their last four games against Australia, so the Wallabies will be up against it. The Aussie boys have come off a Super Rugby season where criticism has been heavy, but joining forces as a collective is no doubt where their strength lies. The coming together of Michael Hooper, David Pocock, Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale and Co. means this outfit will be good.
The injection of the debutants brings a raw enthusiasm, but they will battle nerves, that’s a given. The idea, however, of playing a test match is no different from playing super Rugby or even playing club rugby. It’s just about pace and pressure, and as you climb the ladder, there is less time and less space.
So if I had to crystal ball the series I would say it’s looking as cloudy as an Irish morning.
To be honest, I just don’t know. Am I confident in Australia? Yes, my heart says Wallabies. Am I confident that Ireland can bring their A game? Very much so. There is a reason why Ireland are on a winning run of 12 and claimed the mantle of Six Nations champs. If the Wallabies do lack discipline they will find it tough. The goal kickers will punish the home team, but there is confidence within the Wallabies leading into this season.
This series could end up three-nil to the tourists. It could also be three-nil to the Wallabies. That’s how close these games are going to be. It’s going be a massive test for the Wallabies coming together for the first time in 2018, but what a brilliant occasion to do it. Three test matches that could have contrasting game plans means it will be compelling viewing.
It all happens on Saturday night in Brisbane, where both teams would love to get their nose in front to start the series. But I have a feeling about the Aussie boys at home, with the crowd at Suncorp Staduim, it just might sway it in favour of the green and gold.
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