Sport Rugby

Saturday 24 March 2018

Wounded Wallabies focused on redemption after 'letting ourselves down'

Hugh Farrelly

THE final question from the floor to Australia's coach Robbie Deans was a routine 'what do you make of the opposition?' enquiry but it met with a particularly flat response.

"Robbie, the Irish have named a new No 8, Chris Henry, have you seen much of him?"

"No, I haven't."

"Any of the rest of you?"

Blank stares from Quade Cooper, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ben Daley and Rob Horne. Press conference over.

The Wallabies have taken a bit of a kicking from the media since going down to England in Sydney last weekend and yesterday's briefing showed all the signs of it.

Losing at home to the 'Poms' is always going to make you unpopular here but the fact it was a game that Australia should have won -- and would have won had Matt Giteau made his kicks -- has heightened the level of accusation.

Deans hailing from New Zealand does not help his situation when things go awry and there was definite feel of the Wallabies closing ranks yesterday and focusing on themselves -- hence the relative lack of interest in the Irish line-up. Deans has allowed the same team that flopped against England the opportunity for atonement against Ireland, with Adam Ashley-Cooper for Digby Ioane and Luke Burgess for Will Genia the two injury-enforced changes.

The Irish players that did merit extended comment yesterday were captain Brian O'Driscoll and out-half Jonathan Sexton. Deans revealed that he had been expecting the Leinster man to get the nod over Ronan O'Gara and he believes it sends out a message about Ireland's approach to the game.

"Not a lot of surprises, I suppose," was Deans' reaction upon being handed a print-out of the Irish team. "We probably anticipated that. He (Sexton) is a younger player but he's pretty experienced both at franchise and international level. He's got a pretty complete game.

"With Ronan you get a little bit more predictability around his game than possibly with Jonathan so it suggests they will be very positive with the ball."

When asked whether the Wallabies would target the inexperienced Irish back row, Deans once again opted for the introspective response.

"We're looking at mastering ourselves. That's the nature of Test rugby. You've got to master yourself before you master your opponent."

In keeping with the general theme, Wallabies out-half Cooper did not have a lot to offer when asked what he knew about his opposite number Sexton. "Not too much. I'll do a bit of research about him," answered Cooper.

The No 10 was more forthcoming when asked about the threat posed by O'Driscoll.

"He's a special player," acknowledged Cooper. "What he did for them last year was give them penetration, put them on the front foot. Just stopping their momentum through him will be a big key for us and it's not about one person following him but the team as a whole connecting together and defending well for the whole game."

Young outside-centre Rob Horne was equally effusive when asked about the Ireland captain, a player the 20-year-old has had on a pedestal since he was a young boy.

He said it was no surprise that it was the Irish captain who pounced for the try that secured the 20-20 draw in Croke Park last November.

"Brian O'Driscoll has been one of the best centres in this generation," said Horne. "He's someone I've always admired and looked up to. To me, he's the benchmark at No 13.

"I watched that game last November and it was pretty tough watching him score that try because the boys played really well and deserved to win that game.

"But Brian's that sort of guy, from what I can tell, he's a leader and I'm not sure if the ball would have gone to any other person in that situation."

There is no question that England have made already Ireland's already daunting task more difficult by winning last weekend, and Deans comes across as a man desperate to hit back at his detractors with a big performance at the Suncorp Stadium.

"It's a team responsibility," said Deans. "On the whole our defence was pretty good (against England) but there were a couple of lapses that were unnecessary. We were bitterly disappointed because we gave some ground we needn't have. We let ourselves down. There were reasons why we came up short and it is critical that we rectify them."

Irish Independent

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