Sport Rugby

Monday 25 September 2017

Sexton and Kearney add to Schmidt woes

Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Joe Schmidt's Ireland coaching career hit its first speed bump yesterday with a comprehensive 32-15 defeat by Australia and the impact left key members of his squad more than likely crocked for the final November Test against New Zealand in Lansdowne Road on Sunday.

Outhalf Johnny Sexton, playing his first game of the series after missing last weekend's win over Samoa with a hip injury, pulled up with a hamstring tear in the last play of the first half. He only managed a game and a half in last season's Six Nations between hamstring and foot injuries, and was distraught leaving the field.

Rob Kearney is the other worry, and while Schmidt said he is hopeful about his fullback, who went off with rib damage, he will start the week as doubtful.

Australia could afford to have a man sin-binned in the first half and another red carded in the final quarter and still come home comfortably with a 17-point gap which would have been more had a seemingly good try for Nick Cummins not been knocked back by the TMO.

Centre Tevita Kuridrani was sent off with eight minutes left for a wildly dangerous dump tackle on Peter O'Mahony. He will face a disciplinary hearing this week and is virtually certain to miss the remaining two Tests of Australia's tour, against Scotland and Wales.

Australia were expected to be under serious pressure at the scrum but instead turned the tables on Ireland in an area where the Wallabies are notoriously weak. Their kicking game was also far superior, and fullback Israel Folau dealt comfortably with everything Ireland kicked to him.

"I think it was more than just poor defence. I think we probably still didn't kick as well as we needed to," said Schmidt. "We often had to kick under pressure and I thought Israel Folau was very dominant in the air and that didn't allow us to get any ball back when we were trying to clear our own area.

"We struggled a bit at set piece, we turned over our first lineout and we turned over another one when we had an opportunity to drive to the line and maybe get back into the game.

"I think just before half-time we had fought our way back into the game, but I think you are right the defending wasn't good enough.

"At 15-3 we fought our way back to 15-12. After half-time, losing Johnny didn't help, he just gives us organisation. Having said that, it's valuable experience for Ian Madigan.

"I thought he fought really hard in the position he was put into. Unfortunately the result is what it is and the Australians deserved it."

It's likely that New Zealand will also be shorthanded on Sunday for the sold-out Lansdowne Road Test after Dan Carter, winning his 100th cap for his country in the victory over England in Twickenham yesterday, went off with a leg injury.

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