Guinness Series – Who Will Tame The Wallabies?


Dual blogged on I’m Talkin’ Here

Assuming there isn’t a Joe Schmidt curveball to come, the starting XV for this Saturday against Australia will come from the best of the Boks and Georgia fixtures. At a glance you would say that the starting team from the South Africa fixture will get to go out and prove their mettle once more, excluding Jared Payne of course who is ruled out with the sprain suffered in that game. That said though, some hands went up against Georgia and you couldn’t put it past Schmidt to feel those few deserve their chance, on the bench at the very least.

In the front row, Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin and Mike Ross will surely be nailed on starters for Saturday. You could argue Cronin if Best is good to go, but Schmidt is not going to put in someone on merit so unless Best has a training week for the ages Cronin has got to start. Mike Ross has had a tough old run of it, playing to 74 minutes against the Boks, but having had so little game time beforehand it is still likely he will get the nod. In the second row you cannot look past Devin Toner and Paul O’Connell, especially with the commanding presence the former brought to the pitch when he was introduced last weekend. Dave Foley has likely played himself onto the bench however. The back row throws up a few more debates, especially when they will be up against the like of Matt Hooper, though admittedly the Aussie back rows had little or no fun against France last week. For Ireland, Dominic Ryan has likely played himself onto the bench, marginally ahead of Tommy O’Donnell though the latter did nothing wrong against Georgia or South Africa. The two are just simply fairly level and Ryan would benefit more from the experience. Expect no less than Jamie Heaslip and Peter O’Mahony to fill out the rest of the pack.

We don’t need to talk about the half backs, Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton any day of the week. Do expect a somewhat significantly different game from them than last time out however. One player who could suffer slightly unfairly is Simon Zebo. He hasn’t done much or anything wrong in his two appearances (though the attempt at a second ankle flick against Georgia hardly went down well), but unfortunately he didn’t get the ball, and a player like him needs the ball to impress. His defence was certainly far more up to the Schmidt ethic than in the past but his counterpart on the far wing, Craig Gilroy, just got hands on the ball a little more and could find himself entrusted with the start. It would be very harsh on Zebo, but Schmidt rewards those who impress.

Then the centres. The aforementioned Payne is out, and unfortunately Darren Cave didn’t have his best run in green on Sunday. Gordon D’Arcy at 12 and Robbie Henshaw at 13 would seem most likely, though you wonder if his impressive turn at the weekend could see Ian Madigan considered at centre. It would be risky, but none more so than the decision to pit Payne and Henshaw against the Boks. I couldn’t honestly see it happen, but much like Matt O’Connor seems to prefer at Leinster it would certainly be the best way to get Madigan on the pitch without sacrificing the talent of Sexton, and with D’Arcy failing to impress last week it would help. Expect experience to win out and D’Arcy to start however. Rob Kearney and Tommy Bowe, once they’re fit, won’t be moved for love or money.

Probable team to face Australia:

1 Jack McGrath
2 Sean Cronin
3 Mike Ross
4 Devin Toner
5 Paul O’Connell
6 Rhys Ruddock
7 Peter O’Mahony
8 Jamie Heaslip
9 Connor Murray
10 Jonathan Sexton
11 Craig Gilroy
12 Gordon D’Arcy
13 Robbie Henshaw
14 Tommy Bowe
15 Rob Kearney

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