Sunday 18 February 2018

Deans expects passionate Irish backlash

Hugh Farrelly

THERE was a double blow for Australia yesterday ahead of tomorrow's Test against Ireland when they lost experienced second-row Nathan Sharpe and dropped from third to fourth in the world rankings.

Sharpe, the 32-year-old who has won 82 caps for the Wallabies, was withdrawn from the team after suffering a back spasm, but coach Robbie Deans has an experienced option in 50-capper Mark Chisholm to bring in alongside Dean Mumm.

"It's a great opportunity for Mark, one that he's pretty excited about," said Deans.

"We had a conversation the other day. He became a 50-cap Test player last week, so that conversation was essentially along the lines that his apprenticeship, essentially, is over. It's time to start getting a return."

As regards the drop in the world rankings, Deans did not believe it reflected the quality of Australia's performances.

"There are an awful lot of contributing factors," said the Wallabies coach. "Essentially, in terms of the rankings, we've dropped a couple of games we shouldn't have and that's hurt us.

" You look at Scotland last year, last weekend against England, a couple of kicks go over, different result.

" Ireland at Croke Park, a last-minute try...if we turn those around, and that's a knack we have to master, of getting up and winning the games that are there to be won, if we'd be successful in that, we'd be sitting on seven wins in succession.

"Obviously, the Tri Nations has been demanding because it is the toughest tournament in the world and the reality is that we are third-ranked to date within the Tri Nations. That won't be straight-forward to turn around, but it can be done."

While the loss to England has provided the Australians with extra motivation this week, Deans acknowledges that the Irish have plenty of incentive also, as they bid to halt a run of four defeats.

"You need to understand that Ireland have motivations of their own.

"They won't be happy with their recent history either, but you get what you deserve, ultimately, and we have the opportunity to do something this weekend and it's probably a good thing on the back of last week.

"We expect a huge amount of passion.

"It's their last outing before a break and next year is a World Cup year, so it's a last opportunity for all their players to stake a claim. It's very important to them and that will be evident, I think."

Winger Drew Mitchell reiterated the determination within the Wallabies squad to get the defeat to England out of their systems.

"I don't think it's a personal thing with Ireland," said Mitchell.

Everyone's disappointed coming off the game against England. It's Ireland this weekend, but if it was anyone else, the guys are still keen to get out there and make amends. No one was satisfied collectively with the performance of the team.


"Ireland are our opponents this weekend, but we're going out there to show ourselves first and foremost that we're better than what we put out there last weekend."

Mitchell said Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll will require close attention tomorrow -- it was O'Driscoll's late try that secured the 20-20 draw at Croke Park last September.

"He's obviously got a pretty big influence on the Irish side, especially being captain, but also being the mainstay of their backline for many years now," said Mitchell.

"And he seems to be the one they go to when they need a positive impact in the game. He came up with that play at Croke Park last year to steal a draw.

"His game has evolved throughout his career as well and he can be very elusive, but he can also play that very direct game as well.

"As a backline, we have to make sure we shut down his opportunities, but also those around him."

Irish Independent

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