Scannell in for Ireland as hamstring injury rules Cronin out of series decider
Niall Scannell will start Ireland's series decider against Australia this morning (11.0) after Sean Cronin was forced to pull out with a hamstring injury.
The Leinster hooker was named in the starting XV on Thursday but was forced to sit out yesterday's Captain's Run and was subsequently ruled out with a Grade 1 strain.
Scannell impressed when he started last week's 26-21 win in Melbourne and is promoted from the bench. Rob Herring takes his place and will reprise his role from last week.
Having already lost Dan Leavy, Garry Ringrose, Andrew Conway and Iain Henderson to injury ahead of the season finale, Joe Schmidt will be unhappy to be forced into further altering the side at the 11th hour but will take comfort from the performance of the available hookers on tour so far.
Victory at Allianz Stadium would be a major statement from the Six Nations champions who are looking to bridge a 39-year gap since an Irish side last won a series against one of the southern hemisphere's big three.
Captain Peter O'Mahony is determined to finish a successful season on a high.
"It's the last game of the season for us and this is a performance we're going to have to live with for a long time after tomorrow," he said.
"You don't get a chance for a long time, some of us might never get another chance to put on an Irish jersey and I suppose that's the beauty of international rugby.
"We'll finish tomorrow and we have to live with it for however long it takes to get to back into it.
"You've got to try and put in the best performance of your year and that starts with the training during the week and building to play the best game you can."
O'Mahony says a series win would rank alongside the Grand Slam and he is expecting a difficult outing.
"We've played them two weeks in a row now and you become familiar and that probably makes this even more special and difficult at the same time," he said.
"You know, three games in a row, it's difficult to find little lapses or areas you can go after. It's the third time and there's a good chance they've closed the door on 95pc of stuff that we might have spotted in the first Test.
"So, it's going to be one of the most difficult games you can probably play in."
Sydney's Allianz Stadium is sold out for the finale and Ireland can expect a vocal backing from a large number of locally-based emigrants who snapped up tickets early.
Wallabies hooker Michael Hooper is energised by the prospect of a full house.
"I am absolutely wrapped (thrilled) with it," he said.
"We can come here and have a deciding game and it will be a fantastic spectacle. We have talked it up being a Grand Final, it's going to be tough on the field.
"That's great for us as players and I am sure the people will enjoy it."