Series defeat to Australia would spoil Grand Slam season, warns Joe Schmidt
Joe Schmidt has admitted that a series defeat to Australia would tarnish a historically successful season.
Ireland are staring down the barrel of a series defeat if they cannot reverse last weekend's 18-9 loss in Brisbane and, despite winning the Grand Slam, a second loss would send them into the summer with regrets.
The coach has made eight changes to his starting XV and by the end of tomorrow's match in Melbourne he is likely to have played everyone on tour bar Ross Byrne, with Tadhg Beirne in line for a first cap off the bench. Michael Cheika has named an unchanged team.
While a host of the Grand Slam team, including Johnny Sexton, return, the biggest call is the inclusion of Niall Scannell at hooker ahead of Seán Cronin as Ireland look to set the tone at scrum time. The focus is entirely on taking the series to a Sydney decider and Schmidt conceded that anything less would tarnish this year's achievements.
"Everything affects it," he admitted. "You are as good as your last game, I know that is a horrible cliché, but you are. That's certainly how we felt after losing the first Test, it hurts. You don't sleep too well, you run it over in your mind a few times, you watch it back a fair few times, and you try to find solutions to problems.
"Some of them were self-created and some were created by a really good Australian side and that is something we do not want to forget; how good they are.
"They might have gone from fourth to third (in the world rankings) after winning last week; either way, they are in that top bracket, so you know that when you are playing away from home in a first Test in a humidity we would not often play at in Dublin, we know it is going to be a challenge.
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"They were very physical and we have got to be able to match that. So, we will be disappointed if we cannot bounce back and deliver a good performance. We don't want to feel we have let ourselves down after going 12 months unbeaten."