24 May, 14:08
The Irish Rugby Supporters Club is delighted to announce that tickets for the GUINNESS Series 2013 will go on sale on ticketmaster.ie at 10am on Thursday, May 30.
The Canberra-born tighthead, who has tallied up 40 caps since his Test debut against New Zealand in August 2003, admitted to be a bit perplexed as to why Ireland are keeping the 41-times capped Marcus Horan in reserve for Sunday. Baxter's direct opponent with be Ulster's Bryan Young who will be making his first international start.
The Australians have been forced into a late front row reshuffle with Western Force hooker Brendan Cannon ruled out with a neck injury. The Wallabies medical staff would not pass the 33-year-old Cannon fit for the fray. Coach John Connolly confirmed: "Brendan won't play. It is a bit of both things really - form and fitness. We just don't think he's a hundred percent.
"Tai McIsaac will come into the starting line-up while Stephen Moore will be on the replacements bench." McIsaac, who is a team-mate of Cannon's at Western Force, has only played seven times for Australia.
Australian coach John Connolly is caught on camera. The man more commonly known in rugby circles as 'Knuckles' feels that both Australia and Ireland have the personnel to prosper at next year's World Cup. He said: "The Irish have a tough group at the World Cup, with both France and Argentina in it, but on any given day both ourselves and Ireland could easily go on a run and go all the way."
Wallaby scrum half Matt Giteau and full-back Chris Latham face the press in the Burlington Hotel. Latham, who has a brilliant record against Ireland having scored four tries in five Test matches against them, is bracing himself for some wet weather on Sunday.
The Reds favourite said: "Looking at the weather forecast this week, it's going to be the total opposite of what we're used to back home. So for us, it's been a week of focusing on things we usually don't get the opportunity to and that will make it a little bit tougher.
"We need to make sure that mentally we prepare for the type of match it's going to be and, with them having their strongest side on the pitch, it's certainly going to be a huge atmosphere and a huge task."
Ahead of just his third appearance as a Test scrum half, Matt Giteau admitted his surprise when learning that he is going head-to-head with Isaac Boss, and not Peter Stringer, from the kick-off on Sunday.
The Western Force signing said: "I was very surprised by the decision to leave Stringer out. I don't know what's going on in the selection process. Stringer's combination with O'Gara is outstanding and it was a big call."
Despite his inexperience in the position, the Sydney-born Giteau has got the backing of coach Connolly, who said: "Matt is working out well (at number 9). He is a good footy player and a player to keep an eye on. He is very much a player in the mould of Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and Dimitri Yachvili."
John Connolly and Australia's long-serving defensive coach John Muggleton check their watches as it seems Scott Johnson, the attack coach, is late for the press conference. Connolly's charges are facing what he describes as "probably as good an Irish team as has ever been."
Muggleton, who oversaw a 24-17 win for Australia 'A' in Limerick in midweek, is banking on his defenders to work a game plan in which the influence of Brian O'Driscoll is greatly reduced. He said of the Irish captain: "Brian's out of the same mould as (former Wallaby) Timmy Horan, who could run into traffic and burst through the other side. O'Driscoll can beat you with the angle of his run but he can also bump and go, or get half through the tackle and offload.
"We've got to make sure we put pressure on their number 10 (Ronan) O'Gara to make sure he doesn't deliver the ball where O'Driscoll wants it. We've got to put some heat on them so they're taking the ball under pressure."
It is laughs all round as former Wales coach Scott Johnson belatedly takes his seat at the press conference. John Connolly is keen to see as many of his 37 touring players as possible earn game-time in Europe, and that should mean further rotation against Scotland next weekend. He said: "We have 37 players on tour and I would hope by the time we return to Australia 28 of them will have played Test rugby.
"Prior to the previous World Cups we never took such a big squad away from home - there was an Emerging Wallabies side that toured the year before the 2003 World Cup. However this tour has given me the opportunity to rotate the team especially with the props and hookers."
With the expectancy that Sunday's Test match will be reduced to a kicking duel as the weather worsens in Dublin, Johnson is unperturbed. He added: "In Chris Latham we have the best number 15 for kicking - without a doubt. I think Mark Gerrard is a world class back-three kicker as well. And everyone forgets we have a half-back in Matt Giteau who can kick as well. So we can kick from a variety of sources."
Johnson was in charge of the Welsh side that went down 31-5 to Ireland last March, and he has great respect for how the Irish have developed their game since then. He admitted: "In 2005 there was a school of thought which suggested that Ireland might have to re-invent themselves and to be fair, they have developed their game since then, mostly around the midfield and with the emergence of some world class players."
**All photos by Morgan Treacy of Inpho Photography**