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Guinness Series – Too Soon To Be Cocky?

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Yes we beat the second best team in the world, after they just beat the best. Yes the hype and hysteria was completely justified. Yes – all talk of winning the World Cup has ramped up massively. Maybe that isn’t quite so justified. Either way questions of whether or not Georgia can cause an upset here should be gone now. Without wanting to sound too cocky, the question is how much Ireland will win by.

Seven years ago Ireland nearly suffered a fate worse than death – elimination from the World Cup at the hands of Georgia. They were only squaring off in the second game of the pool, but suffice to say had Ireland fallen in that game none of the residual hope would have spilled into the games against France and Argentina. But the times have changed, as last week showed, and the chances of limping home by four points this time are nil.

Ticket sales stand at 42,000 and that’s a record for Ireland against a tier 2 nation. Is it last week? Is it Joe? Or is it just that there’s a reason to believe in this team again, a reason to spare a few quid just to be there. It’s not all that long ago we were protesting the Fiji game being moved to Thomond Park to avoid empty seats. One would think it will be a long time before we have anything like that to argue again.

So what has Schmidt gone and done now that all of this optimism is flowing around freely? Well he’s only gone and changed nearly the entire bloody team. We’ve heard coaches talk about blooming new players in the past, sure Declan Kidney changed five for Scotland in 09 and we nearly had a meltdown. Joe Schmidt, should Robin Copeland take the pitch, will have awarded 13 debuts in just about a year since taking charge of the team in full. So why not change 13 names on the team sheet now?

None of the backline changes, excluding Darren Cave, are all that surprising. We have discovered this year that it isn’t just the Healys and O’Briens that suffer long term setbacks, new faces from 11 to 15 are more than welcome. Cave you would feel has the most to prove of all fifteen men on the pitch given that Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne barely if even put a single foot wrong against the Boks. He will need to be seen to put some serious gas on against a Georgian backline that shouldn’t present much of a threat.

In the pack the changes could cause mild rattling but not much to unnerve. Mike Ross will serve as a pack leader of sorts in the absence of Paul O’Connell but players like Dominic Ryan and Dave Foley have enough experience playing inspirational roles with their provinces to provide some stern instruction too. Georgia can bring one thing to this game and that’s physicality, with a sprinkling of Top 14 in there for good measure. For this reason you can expect a similar game plan from the forwards as was employed against South Africa, although some contesting of the line outs is likely this time around.

All will be marshalled by Ireland’s 103rd captain, Eoin Reddan, who is no stranger to absolutely barking out the orders with Leinster and has enough winner’s medals to warrant his title. Schmidt is going for education here, getting to know his entire squad in earnest. There’s no risk of an Irish loss, we would imagine, but even if it were to happen the knowledge gained will be priceless. A smattering of tries won’t hurt either.

Image courtesy of IrishRugby.ie

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