Sunday 4 December 2016

'I'm sure Ireland would love to have Johnny Sexton in their side' - Quade Cooper

Published 24/11/2016 | 14:46

Quade Cooper of Austraila during their rugby squad training session at the RDS Arena, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Quade Cooper of Austraila during their rugby squad training session at the RDS Arena, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Michael Cheika will put his strongest team on the paddock for Saturday's Aviva test against Ireland as Australia seek a first northern hemisphere Grand Slam since 1984.

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And although the former Leinster coach, who led the province to their first European Cup in 2009, is eager to catch up with some old friend after training in the RDS today, he insists that this week is business first.

"It would be very enjoyable for me because it was disappointing to lose here in 2014," said Cheika. "It is not about me, there are a lot of things on the line. And we have a third of the squad which is new and some of those will play in France tonight in another fixture.

"It is really difficult to win in Europe. It is nice to be back in the RDS. It is a brilliant venue and you can see the atmosphere might be brilliant around match days. I have seen a few people.

"But at the end of the day, I can always come back to holidays. We need to be prepared well, that is the main thing."

Play-maker Quade Cooper confirmed he is fully fit after a knee injury. "I have trained well all week and am looking forward to taking this opportunity," he said.

"I didn't get the chance last week but we got the win and that is all that matters. Hopefully we can do it again this week. I am content with where I am at, I want to take this opportunity. I have a different role, even if sitting on the bench, but I will do what it takes to help the team.

"Losing Sexton is not a massive loss in terms of their playing style but mentally, he is a huge talisman and gives the team confidence.

"He led them to a great win in Chicago and I am sure they would have loved to have had him in the side. But I am sure they will have good back-up in there."

Lock Dean Mumm will be asked to mark the effective Irish lineout. "This is my best position and it is going to be huge for me.

"They have a tremendous lineout and their attacking structures are based on that. Devin Toner runs an excellent lineout and he has a connection with Rory Best. It is a massive challenge for me to try to disrupt their influence.

"You try to disrupt in some form but I will not tell you how. You just want to disrupt them and move them from Plan A into a Plan B.

"Iain Henderson is a brilliant player and it shows their physical intent in the way they want to play the game."

Cheika has named an extended bench as he seeks the final two pieces in a potential Grand Slam, with England to come next week.

"For this game, this is the strongest. There is a bit of continuity with small changes. No matter the selection, we need to continue to improve and we need to work on things we have been doing all season and this is a continuation of that.

"They have a threat on the lineout but Dean Mumm does work all over the pitch in areas that are the strengths of Ireland. Against a team in good form, which they are, we need him to do a lot of work.

"We had a good scrum session on Tuesday, they traded blows and both got stuck into each other. We needed to address issues from the French game. We will scrum straight and see what happens, do our best to stay up and that makes it easier for the referee. That is what we are trying to do.

"It would be very enjoyable for me, it was disappointing. To lose here in 2014. It is not about me, there are a lot of things on the line. And we have a third of the squad which is new and some of those will play in France tonight.

"Stephen Moore just brings leadership, energy and experience. It doesn't matter how many caps he has, he can still help the young players. He is a good lad and he wants to play on so we won't start writing any epithets yet.

"He wants to keep learning, it is a good quality. You learn new ways and new techniques."

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