The world’s fourth and third placed sides go head-to-head at Croke Park this afternoon as Grand Slam champions Ireland look to kickstart Declan Kidney’s second season at the helm with a prized victory over Tri Nations opposition.
GUINNESS SERIES 2009: Sunday, November 15
IRELAND v AUSTRALIA, Croke Park, 3pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC Two)
Team News: The Ireland team to play Australia in the opening game of the GUINNESS Series 2009 includes Leinster prop Cian Healy will earn his first senior cap in the front row alongside Munster duo Jerry Flannery and John Hayes.
The team to take on the Wallabies will be captained by Brian O’Driscoll for the 57th time and he will be partnered in midfield by Paddy Wallace.
Having played 93 times for Ireland and earned six Lions caps, today’s game will mark O’Driscoll’s 100th Test match.
At half-back, Ronan O’Gara will earn his 93rd cap for Ireland and will be partnered by Tomas O’Leary.
Along with Healy, there are two other uncapped players in the squad with Sean Cronin named as replacement hooker and Jonathan Sexton as cover at out-half.
In all, there are two changes to the side that secured Ireland’s first Grand Slam in 61 years against Wales last March, with Wallace and Healy coming in for Gordon D’Arcy and Marcus Horan.
Meanwhile, openside flanker David Pocock has come in for the benched George Smith in the only change Australian coach Robbie Deans has made to his side for the GUINNESS Series Test against Ireland.
Pocock will make his 14th Test appearance but only his fifth start when the Wallabies take on Grand Slam champions Ireland.
The 21-year-old flanker started against New Zealand in Tokyo recently before coming on as a replacement during last weekend’s 18-9 Cook Cup win over England at Twickenham.
The change in the back row aside, the Australian line-up is unchanged with Queensland Reds duo Quade Cooper and Digby Ioane linking up again in midfield.
The side will be led for just the third time by Rocky Elsom, the former Leinster flanker makes his return to Dublin as the captain of his country.
IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Paddy Wallace, Luke Fitzgerald; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Cian Healy, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Stephen Ferris, David Wallace, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Tom Court, Leo Cullen, Denis Leamy, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Keith Earls.
AUSTRALIA: Adam Ashley-Cooper; Peter Hynes, Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper, Drew Mitchell; Matt Giteau, Will Genia; Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, James Horwill, Mark Chisolm, Rocky Elsom (capt), David Pocock, Wycliff Palu.
Replacements: Tatafu Polota Nau, Matt Dunning, Dean Mumm, George Smith, Luke Burgess, Ryan Cross, James O’Connor.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Christophe Berdos (France), Andrew Small (England)
Television Match Official: Geoff Warren (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland to win: 8/11; Draw: 20/1; Australia to win: 11/10
Pre-Match Quotes: Declan Kidney (Ireland) – “This is our first match of the season so I view our record as being zero from zero. This is the start of a whole new season.
“This time last year there was a little bit of doom and gloom. Now people need to be realistic in their expectations.
“Our ambition is to be able to sit in the dressing room knowing we gave it our best shot. That doesn’t fit into any tactical or technical text books.
“It could be windy and wet, so we may have to role up our sleeves. If you do that then everything tends to fall into place.
“We’ll try and add on little bits to last year but we’re not trying to take over from where we were last year. It doesn’t work that way.
“Like all Australia teams, they play for the whole 80 minutes. They’re a clever team in that they change tactically and can come at you with four or five different approaches.
“Defensively they’re very smart and don’t give up many tries. The Tri Nations teams play each other each year so they’ve learnt a lot from each other because they each have different styles.”
Robbie Deans (Australia) – “It’s going to be a litmus test for us. They’re the Six Nations Grand Slam champions, European Cup champions two years in 2008 and 2009, so there’s an awful lot of experience and belief in the group we’re playing at Croke Park.
“Getting a result last weekend was a great confidence booster for the whole squad, but we know that the standard we produced last week won’t be good enough against this Irish team.
“There was an uncertainty about England, in terms of the transitional nature of their development as a team, that doesn’t pertain to Ireland.
“The Irish are an established and experienced combination who are used to winning, and expect to win, every time they play.
“Their team has momentum – having won its last eight Test matches – and it has the confidence that mastering the art of winning consistently brings.
“Playing them now is a great challenge, but one that we are all looking forward to.”
Pre-Match Links –
Recent Form: Ireland – 2009: Won 30-21 v France home (Six Nations); Won 38-9 v Italy away (Six Nations); Won 14-13 v England home (Six Nations); Won 22-15 v Scotland away (Six Nations); Won 17-15 v Wales away (Six Nations); Won 25-6 v Canada away (Summer Tour); Won 27-10 v USA away (Summer Tour)
Australia – 2009: Won 31-8 v Italy home (Summer Series); Won 34-12 v Italy home (Summer Series); Won 22-6 v France home (Summer Series); Lost 22-16 v New Zealand away (Tri Nations); Lost 29-17 v South Africa away (Tri Nations); Lost 19-18 v New Zealand home (Tri Nations); Lost 32-25 v South Africa home (Tri Nations); Won 21-6 v South Africa home (Tri Nations); Lost 33-6 v New Zealand away (Tri Nations); Lost 32-19 v New Zealand neutral (Bledisloe Cup); Won 18-9 v England away (Autumn Tour)