Saturday 21 September 2019

'We were disrespectful towards Ireland and they taught us a lesson' - Australia star on famous night in 2011

Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll celebrates with team-mate Fergus McFadden after victory over Australia in 2011
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll celebrates with team-mate Fergus McFadden after victory over Australia in 2011
Genia: "We have probably gone through a transition period where we have tried to introduce a lot of new players and regenerate the squad." Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Seven years on, there are 10 survivors from that famous 2011 night in Auckland when the balance of power between Australia and Ireland shifted.

Whatever about one-off wins in November, the 15-6 World Cup pool victory was a statement and while Declan Kidney's men hit their familiar glass ceiling in the quarter-final against Wales in Wellington, the victory over the Wallabies remains a high point.

For Australia scrum-half Will Genia, the match is indelibly inked into his psyche.

After that, he has always taken Ireland seriously.

He, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu and Kurtley Beale remain in the Wallaby set-up seven years on, while Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Keith Earls, Rob Kearney, Cian Healy and Sean Cronin are the survivors in the Irish squad that arrived in Brisbane over the weekend.

While his illustrious colleague Israel Folau isn't too familiar with his opponents for the next three weeks, Genia knows them all too well and has sworn never to take them lightly again.

"When I look back on that game, we probably underestimated them," he said yesterday. That was probably disrespectful and they taught us a lesson which was good for us.

"Coming into this game, we cannot underestimate them at all. They are obviously No 2 in the world but more than that, just the level of rugby they have been playing, I have said it before, it is all about attrition with them.

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"They are good at retaining possession but aside from that, you have got Sexton who can sit back in the pocket, you have Conor Murray, whose box-kicking puts pressure on you in that sense.

"They have got a pretty good game but more than anything, they really understand their game-plan, and execute it really well."

The scrum-half, who was famously picked up and driven back by Stephen Ferris during that World Cup win, is asked what is different about Ireland now, and responds: "They just started winning."

He is reminded that that Ireland team had only won a Grand Slam in 2009 and had a decent record against Australia in Dublin during the previous decade.

"The style of rugby they play now. They have big-game players now too… to be honest. I was probably ignorant back in 2009 of what they achieved that year," he clarified.

"I was young, probably a bit ignorant - they had (Ronan) O'Gara, (Brian) O'Driscoll, (Paul) O'Connell."

He does not believe that the big contingent of young players will be guilty of the same mistake, despite the experienced Folau's utterance that he "didn't really know much about Ireland".

"Guys just know more now," he said. "Social media has played a part in that. People take more of an interest now.

"They know the Sextons, the Murrays, the impacts they have had at club level, winning with Leinster and all that sort of stuff.

"There is no chance of us underestimating because people just know too much."

Faced off

Murray is an opponent that Genia knows all about, having faced off against the Munster star a further three times since - winning only the 2013 game at the Aviva Stadium; Joe Schmidt's second game in charge.

"He is a big guy," the former Stade Francais scrum-half said of his opposite number.

"He is very strong, he can be physical. His tactical kicking, he does it better than anyone else, which creates a lot of pressure.

"They chase it well and when they get that ball back, they are 30-40 metres down the pitch and on the front foot.

"That is a big part of his game we have spoken about."

These weeks played a big part in Genia's decision to return home from France and, after a tumultuous two seasons since they reached the 2015 Rugby World Cup final, he believes the Wallabies are on the right track under Michael Cheika.

"I could have stayed in Paris for another year, maybe even longer, but I missed all this," he explained.

"I missed the vibe, the competition, missed the satisfaction you get from being at a higher level of competition. I'm glad I am back.

"We have probably gone through a transition period where we have tried to introduce a lot of new players and regenerate the squad.

"There have been 20 to 25 debutants and 'Cheik' has settled on who his core group is and it is about moving forward through that. We have had some disappointing performances but we feel we are heading in the right direction."

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