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Players Lap Up GUINNESS Series Build-Up

Players Lap Up GUINNESS Series Build-Up

Ireland squad members Donncha O’Callaghan, Eoin Reddan and Jerry Flannery lined out to announce the start of the GUINNESS Series 2009. As part of this year’s series, Ireland will welcome Australia to Croke Park next Sunday. Following that they will host Fiji at the RDS, on Saturday, November 21, before taking on World Cup holders South Africa at Croke Park on Saturday, November 28.


IRELAND v Australia, Croke Park, 3pm, Sunday, November 15

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IRELAND v Fiji, The RDS, 5.15pm, Saturday, November 21

IRELAND v South Africa, Croke Park, 2.30pm, Saturday, November 28

This year’s GUINNESS Series gets underway at Croke Park next Sunday when Grand Slam champions Ireland entertain Australia, the winners of the Cook Cup against England last weekend.

The Robbie Deans-coached Wallabies are also the current holders of the Lansdowne Cup, which is on the line any time Ireland and Australia meet.

The sides’ most recent clash saw Ireland go down 18-12 in Melbourne in June 2008, but two of Australia’s last three visits to Dublin have finished in victories for the home side – 18-9 in November 2002 and 21-6 in November 2006.

Ireland winger Luke Fitzgerald, who had yet to be capped when the Wallabies were last in town, knows Declan Kidney’s men will have to be at their best if they are to make a winning start to the GUINNESS Series.

“Any time you play against an Australian team, they have quality players and have massive talent in the side,” said Fitzgerald, ahead of Wednesday’s team announcement.

“They have a few game-breakers and obviously we know one of them very well – Rocky Elsom – we all know how good he is!

“No matter when you play Australia, they’re going to be very tough to beat. If you don’t play to the best of your ability, then there’s no way you’re going to beat them.

“I suppose the challenge for us is to just to perform to the best of our ability and bring out our best performance on the day.”

Speaking about the series as a whole and the goal of maintaining Ireland’s recent strong form, Fitzgerald added: “We probably have a target on our backs, coming into the autumn internationals as Grand Slam champions and looking forward to the Six Nations as well.

“That’s a positive thing though. We’ve got to look at that as another challenge that the squad’s got to live up to and another challenge for us to try and overcome.

“Everyone’s looking forward to it, we’re really motivated for this autumn series and doing well against southern Hemisphere opposition.

“At this point, everyone’s just hoping they get into the team and the matchday squad, because there’s massive depth and competition for places.”

Fitzgerald’s former Leinster team-mate, Rocky Elsom, is Australia’s captain for their current tour, standing in for injured centre Stirling Mortlock.

The Heineken Cup winner has fond memories of Dublin and will have his side well-primed for their first ever outing at Croke Park.

“Croke Park is very different to Lansdowne Road. It’s just so much bigger and there’s a lot of people in the stands obviously, but the actual field itself is quite big,” explained the talented flanker.

“It feels like a much bigger stadium. Well, it is. It’s a much bigger playing field. It has a different feel about it as well.

“I don’t know if overwhelming is the word but the fans certainly get stuck into it.

“You need to address the noise element because, compared to the crowds we get in Australia, it’s very loud.

“I remember the Leinster-Munster match there, and the noise coming out of the place was deafening the whole game.

“If we were on the field together, we’d have to be so close and you’d have to be watching my mouth to hear what I was saying.

“We’ll address that, but that’s not too hard. You just need to make the players aware of it and we should be fine. Hopefully they don’t make too much noise!”