Aglance back over Ireland's 12 fixtures since last November's Autumninternationals just shows how vital Hayes is to Ireland's cause. TheBruff clubman started eleven of those 12 games, only coming on as a replacement in the win over Romania. His two Test tries have come against Romania (September 2002) and Scotland (February 2005).
Thegeneral scene as the sun beams down on the Irish squad at LansdowneRoad. Sunday's clash is the 26th international meeting between Irelandand Australia. The Wallabies have won 18 of the previous 25 matches between the nations, including the last four (45-16at Perth's Subiaco Oval in June 2003, 17-16 at the World Cup atMelbourne's Telstra Dome in November 2003, 30-14 at Lansdowne Road lastNovember and 37-15 in Perth against last June).
Leinster and Ireland team-mates Brian O'Driscoll and Denis Hickie seethe funny side of things at the Captain's Run. O'Driscoll is well awarethat the Wallabies have had 15-plus points to spare on Ireland in thesides' last two meetings, but the skipper reckons his side have thetools to turn the tourists over on Sunday.
Hesaid: "To bring four guys into the team and not weaken it is a sign ofthe times and a great position to be in. We want to continue ourwinning run but there are still improvements we can make, especially indefence.
"Itwill be a big challenge against Australia as they have beaten us wellon the last two occasions we've played. Having said that, I thought we played some of our best rugby this year in Perth in June even though we lost and I hope we can repeat that."
Ulster's Isaac Boss is only the fourth different scrum half to start a Test match for Ireland since Peter Stringer's debutback in February 2000. The others to challenge Stringer's dominance atnumber 9 have been Guy Easterby and Kieran Campbell.
Ulster prop Bryan Young takes a pass at training. Young's inclusion has taken some of the tourists by surprise, including Wallaby loosehead Al Baxter. TheWaratahs front rower conceded: "I don't know much about him (Young),apart from the fact that he plays for Ulster and plays both sides(loosehead and tighthead).
"We've seen a lot of Marcus Horan, andonce again, the same as with Isaac Boss, to break up that combinationis a surprise. It was obviously done for a reason, so we'll see how itgoes."
Munster prop Marcus Horan, who will be hoping to gain some game-time off the bench as Ireland press for back-to-back victories over Southern Hemisphere opposition for the first time since 1965-67.Back then Ireland got the better of South Africa in April 1965 andAustralia in January 1967, with the Five Nations championship staged inbetween.
A try from winger Paddy McGrath and two penalties from the boot of full-back Tom Kieransaw the Irish to a 9-6 success over the Springboks in '65, while the15-8 defeat of the Aussies in '67 came courtesy of a try each fromwinger Alan Duggan and out-half Mike Gibson, who also struck two drop goals, and a single Tom Kiernan penalty.
Gordon D'Arcy will be eagerly awaiting the midfield collision between himself and Brian O'Driscoll and Test rugby's rawest centre partnership of Lote Tuqiri and Stirling Mortlock. Irish defensive coach Graham Steadman is admittedly wary of what the Wallabies can offer.
Hesaid: "Without being disrespectful to South Africa, we know Australiawill have more strike power. Their precision under pressure is the onebig difference. Give them half a yard and they'll take it, whereas onoccasions we get good positions and don't finish them off.
"The Australians' first 25 minutes against Wales was the most exciting rugby I've seen in years. We've got to make sure they don't spend too much time in their green zone - our red zone."
Ireland's record points scorer Ronan O'Gara, who has tallied up 649 pointsin his 64 Tests to date, will be hoping to add to his haul against theAustralians on Sunday. In five outings against the Wallabies, theCorkman has scored 45 points, including all 18 in Ireland's win atLansdowne Road in 2002.
Eddie O'Sullivan has handed Geordan Murphy hisfirst start in an Irish jersey since the second Test defeat to NewZealand in June and the Kildare man is hoping to make the most of it.He said: "It was disappointing not to start against South Africa so I'mglad to be in the line-up for Sunday.
"I guess we have a bit of a point to prove after losing to Australia last autumn and again in the summer but it's not something we've really spoken about.
"Themood in the camp is good and everyone is happy and working towards thesame goal. We are attracting some flattering reviews but we won't begetting carried away and we'll just knuckle down and get on with thejob," added the Leicester Tiger.
Munster back row Denis Leamy, whowill earn his 16th cap for Ireland on Sunday, looks on at a team talkat Lansdowne Road. Sizing up the Australian team, forwards coach Niall O'Donovan said: "It'sa well-balanced side with dangerous men all around the pitch. They havea very big, very athletic forward pack and an excellent back line. Fromnumbers 9 to 15 they have outstanding players, both individually andcollectively, so it's going to be a very, very tough task for us."
**All photos by Morgan Treacy of Inpho Photography**
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