Thursday 14 December 2017

Ireland v Australia - Talking points

Ireland will host Australia in Dublin on Saturday hoping for a third win in four autumn Test matches.

Here, Press Association Sport examines five key talking points ahead of the Aviva Stadium showdown.


Ireland captain Rory Best will become the nation's fifth centurion, joining Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell, Ronan O'Gara and John Hayes in the exclusive club. The evergreen hooker has been roundly hailed as playing the best rugby of his career, despite already hitting 34 years of age. Best remains one of the most durable of Ireland's competitors, with Saturday's landmark appearance indicative of his staying power.


Wily Australia boss Michael Cheika has opted to slot second row Dean Mumm into his back row, at blindside flanker. Former Exeter lock Mumm has bags of experience in the second row but has not featured at flanker too often in the Test arena. Cheika freely admitted that Mumm's selection comes down to the need to add another top line-out operator, in order to combat Ireland's set-piece prowess.


Australia hooker and captain Stephen Moore always relishes Test matches in Dublin, having been born in Galway and spending the first five years of his life in Ireland. The 33-year-old will savour Saturday night for another reason too, though, as he earns his 116th Wallabies cap. Moore will draw level with Adam Ashley-Cooper and Nathan Sharpe as Australia's joint second-highest appearance holders.


Overhit any tactical high punts and Ireland will gift Wallabies full-back Israel Folau the kind of counter-attacking platform that turns Test matches. The superlative Folau is not only a master under the high ball, he can also collect any loose punts on the full and at full pace - and then shred the dog-legging opposition defensive line. So if either kick or chase are off the mark just a fraction for Ireland, the hosts could find themselves in hot water.


Garry Ringrose will start his first senior-level match at inside centre on Saturday. Leinster's natural outside centre was forced to shift inside when coming off the bench against New Zealand last weekend. The 21-year-old acquitted himself well under huge pressure in the 21-9 loss to the All Blacks, after Robbie Henshaw's concussion. But now the young tyro must raise the level once again, starting from the off. Paddy Jackson must step up too in the wake of Johnny Sexton's hamstring injury. Ireland will also hope Sean O'Brien and Jared Payne can shake off late knocks, otherwise the hosts will be forced into yet more rejigs.

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