Joe Schmidt sweats on injuries and potential Cian Healy citing ahead of Sydney series decider
Ireland finally brought an end to their Australian drought yesterday, exactly 39 years after Ollie Campbell's heroics had brought them their first and only series win Down Under. A hugely intense and physical performance in Melbourne puts the sides at one win each going to the third Test in Sydney on Saturday where the Allianz Stadium is a 45,000 sell-out.
But it remains to be seen who Joe Schmidt will be able to pick from when the squad are back on the field on Tuesday. In addition to injuries to Dan Leavy (sternum), Andrew Conway (hip) and Cian Healy (shoulder), Healy may have a case to answer for a tackle on Australia scrumhalf Will Genia.
It's understood that Australia management will not ask for a review of the incident midway through the first half where the prop tackled Genia off the ball, but it's not their call.
"We ran the play down the front," coach Michael Cheika said after the game. "Willy's (Genia) the decoy around the back, and he got king-hit from the side. It looked like a shoulder. And when you're not expecting it, that's what happens. I'm not sure who it was from the other team. (They) came in and hit him and he jammed his arm and broke it."
Joe Schmidt expects Ireland's three casualties to be fit for Sydney. Having seen Ireland lose 11 straight Tests to Australia Down Under this was the first break in the chain that started in '79. And if Ireland can complete the task in Sydney it will be another first for Schmidt.
Ireland did most of their damage in the first and third quarters, with an early try from Conway getting them back on track having conceded to Australia inside two minutes, and then man of the match Tadhg Furlong got over for a touchdown after massive and sustained pressure in the Wallaby 22.
"I thought he did incredibly well to reach out and score that try," Schmidt said. "He scrummaged well; his line-break in the first-half - he got lonely, he was in so much space that he got a little bit confused but then he tried to throw this mountainous pass out to the edge which got intercepted. It's not enough for Tadhg, he got it back then which was super play. Defensively, he worked really hard.
"He's really deserving of that man of the match award - there's a few other guys like Pete (O'Mahony) beside me, Pete's three turnovers were crucial and he'd a couple of really good ball carries, good lineout pressure that he provided. There's James Ryan again, CJ Stander - that relentless energy that they bring to the side. There's a host of guys that worked really hard tonight, but you have to. You just have to against a side of that calibre."
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Australia will take confidence from the way they forced the game down to the wire having been 26-14 down early in the final quarter with Ireland looking in control. They will be favourites to win in Sydney if for no reason other than the fatigue levels in the Irish camp at this stage of the season. But having squared it now Ireland are focused on finishing the job.
"We definitely want to win the series, but we've probably got 10 games now between this tour and when we go into our warm-up to the World Cup," Schmidt said.
"So, the thing that we want to believe about our squad is that there's less and less between players and, so, selection is a contest every time. And as a result, we'll look back on what guys did well tonight and we'll see how guys travel. On Tuesday, we'll have a better idea about some of those guys who took knocks and that will allow us to make a few decisions further along."
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