Wednesday 11 December 2019

Ireland v Australia - Five things that we learned

Jamie Heaslip and Peter O'Mahony, Ireland, celebrate after Ian Madigan, below centre, turns over the ball at the end of the game
Jamie Heaslip and Peter O'Mahony, Ireland, celebrate after Ian Madigan, below centre, turns over the ball at the end of the game
Robbie Henshaw, Ireland, is tackled by Ben McCalman, Australia
Simon Zebo, Ireland, sprints past Nick Phipps, Australia, to score his side's first try
Tommy Bowe, Ireland, touches down for his side's second try of the game despite the tackle of Adam Ashley-Cooper, Australia
Tommy Bowe, Ireland, runs free for his side's second try of the game
Paul O'Connell, Ireland, wins a ball from Luke Jones, Australia
Jamie Heaslip, Tommy Bowe, Ian Madigan, and Peter O'Mahony celebrate in the dying seconds of the match at the Aviva Stadium
Simon Zebo, Ireland, skips past the tackle of Nick Phipps, Australia, to score his side's first try off the game
Rob Kearney, Ireland, is tackled by Henry Speight, Australia
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Clean sweep of victories leaves Schmidt with plenty to be pleased about

Ireland’s strength in depth has stood the test

Coming into the autumn series without the likes of Cian Healy, Sean O’Brien and Andrew Trimble, not to mention the absence of Brian O’Driscoll, Ireland’s squad depth was tested to its limits.

Jared Payne and Chris Henry were the major casualties prior to Saturday’s game and even then Joe Schmidt could call upon players of Gordon D’Arcy and Rhys Ruddock’s quality.

Ireland have rarely been afforded the luxury at having such strength in depth at their disposal and despite Schmidt keeping his feet firmly on the ground, there is a real sense of excitement surrounding this group of players 10 months out from the World Cup.

With the of the aforementioned injured trio back in the mix, Schmidt will have some difficult selection decisions to make, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Reputations enhanced

Being the perfectionist that he is, Schmidt will pick the bones out of all three games but a clean sweep of victories is hugely impressive. Several Irish players have put their hand up selection ahead of a massive year.

Having been left out in the cold for this year’s Six Nations, Simon Zebo came back in, both on the summer tour and in the November Tests and played his way right back to the top of Schmidt’s pecking order.

Zebo was one of only two players (Mike Ross being the other) to start all three games and he did everything that Schmidt asked of him defensively, as well as scoring two tries.

Jack McGrath’s reputation continues to grow at a rapid rate and Ireland are blessed to have two world-class loosehead props.

Dave Foley’s impressive debut against Georgia saw him rightly jump ahead of Mike McCarthy for a place on the bench. Now that he is in, he will be keen to remain there.

Henshaw announces himself on the big stage

An unenviable task of being asked to step into O’Driscoll’s shoes but after an excellent performance against South Africa at inside-centre, he shifted to his preferred No 13 shirt on Saturday and put in a display that reiterated that he is here for the long haul.

“He’s impressed on a couple of fronts at 12 and 13,” Les Kiss said.

“He’s learning on the run in the toughest environment. Critically, having Sexton and D’Arcy inside of him was a help. He can certainly be very proud of what he’s done.”

High praise for a special talent.

World-class half-backs are more crucial than ever

The relationship and understanding that Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton have forged over the last couple of years came into full fruition during this series and they now arguably stand alone as the world’s best half-back pairing.

Murray’s physicality and aggression at the breakdown has become crucial to Ireland’s play and his ‘jackal’ in the first half on Saturday won a vital penalty that relieved a spell of intense Wallaby pressure.

His kick for Tommy Bowe’s try against South Africa will live long in the memory, while outside him, Sexton repeated the trick when he played a perfectly weighted kick for Zebo to score.

Two players at the peak of their powers, Irish fans can feel confident going into any game with both in this kind of form.

Schmidt and his brains trust get tactics spot on

Battling appendicitis all day, Schmidt remained focused on the task at hand and so too did his players.

“He was a bit more stand-offish than normal,” O’Connell smiled afterwards, but underneath it was a captain who was immensely proud of what his team had achieved.

Former Ireland flanker Simon Easterby came in for John Plumtree as forwards coach and the transition has been seamless.

There is still plenty of room for improvement at the set-piece but there is also plenty to admire about how Ireland went about dismantling the Springboks and the Wallabies.

As the clock ticked towards an end, memories of last year’s dramatic defeat to the All Blacks came flooding back but a further year under this coaching ticket, the same mistakes weren’t about to make again.

“We are very performance-focused. Elements of our game, playing until the end and making those minutes matter has been a big focus for us,” Kiss admitted.

Ref link review

"Still about a minute mate, we have to wait."

- Referee Glen Jackson makes Bernard Foley wait before getting the match underway to keep with the television schedule.

"What are you saying? Are you saying try? "He's probably saying look at the pass."

- Jackson struggles to hear the TMO as Paul O'Connell tries to help him out by suggesting he look at Nick Phipps' alleged forward pass.

"Come back, come back to where I showed you the mark. Come on."

- James Slipper tries to move the scrum mark but Jackson is wise to his ways.

"What's he doing? He's off his feet. Can you see this?"

- Phipps screams at Jackson at a breakdown and the referee duly listens as he awards Australia a penalty.

"We need a concussion test here."

- Jackson is quick to see that Gordon D'Arcy needs to be taken off after shipping a heavy knock to his head.

"Nine, I don't need you to tell me. I saw it for myself."

- Conor Murray's attempts to advise Jackson fall on deaf ears as he gets a telling off.

"Just keep it calm, yeah."

- Michael Hooper's first words to the unpredictable Quade Cooper as he takes to the pitch.

"Nine, off. You've been called off by the doctor for a head injury."

- Jackson instructs Murray to leave the pitch as the medics on the touch line deem him unfit to continue after taking a knee to his head.

"All six went down that time. No one's fault."

- At a collapsed scrum, the referee doesn't lay the blame with anyone in particular and goes for a reset scrum.

"Get him off the field, what is he doing?"

- Hooper's frustration threatens to boil over as Ireland's medical team are working overtime on the pitch.

"Just tell No 6 that he needs to calm down quickly."

- O'Connell is summoned and told to calm Peter O'Mahony down.

"It's a clear maul. Paul, that was a clear maul."

- A penalty decision is clearly explained to O'Connell.

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