Ireland head coach Declan Kidney says he will have no problem motivating his players this weekend as they try to topple reigning Tri Nations champions Australia and move into pole position in Pool C.
“When you’re playing the Tri Nations champions, they’re the sort of the games you really look forward to. It’s easy to get up for them,” said Declan Kidney, speaking at the team hotel in Auckland.
“The trick is not to get yourself too anxious about it, just go out and play your normal game. And that’s what we’re working hard at doing.
“Obviously we’ll have to lift our game and finish off a few more of the chances we created last Sunday. Against the US we got three (tries) and created another couple of chances.
“As the tournament goes on, I’ve no doubt that we’ll start taking more and more of those.”
The Ireland management have made four changes in personnel to the side that started the 22-10 win over the USA, with Eoin Reddan and Rugby World Cup debutants Rob Kearney, Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien all securing starting berths.
Asked if he considers this his strongest team, Kidney explained: “My belief in the squad is that whoever is playing at the time is the strongest side.
“In asking me a question like that what you’re really asking me is to denigrate some of the lads that I left off and I won’t do that because I’ve huge belief in the whole squad.
“The lads who I’ve left off have been unlucky to be left off. I’ve obviously picked these (players) not to just turn up. I’ve picked them because I believe they’re going well.
“I believe they can play the game we want to play and I believe they can get us the result that we want to get.”
If Ireland are to upset the odds and claim their first win over the Wallabies since 2006, they will have to quell the influence of David Pocock at the breakdown and ensure a solid platform from which Brian O’Driscoll and company can attack.
The battle for quick ruck ball is sure to be intense at Eden Park, and Kidney was giving little away in terms of how Ireland would seek to get the edge in that area.
“The way the game is now, structure at the breakdown is vital in any match. I don’t see it as any more of less vital in this match than any other.
“When we have the ball, the challenge is there to take it into contact and we’ll recycle it. If we can avoid taking it into contact and keep the ball alive. we’ll look to do that and that’s no different to what the Australians will do.
“I’m sure the Aussies will look to slow up our ball and we’ll look to tackle them in our own way.”
Ireland backs coach Alan Gaffney said earlier this week that they would ‘not be concentrating on any one particular player’.
The media may be talking up Wallaby out-half Quade Cooper, who impressed in their opening victory over Italy, but it is the collective threat that Kidney is more concerned about.
“I think when you’re playing a team that’s playing at the top of their form, if you try and individualise it then you take your eye off some player. They have quality players down throughout the whole group, as I believe we do.
“We won’t be individualising it in any way. We’ll just be taking them on as a full team,” he insisted.
Ireland have not been far away from beating Australia in the sides’ most recent meetings. They led for much of the first half in Brisbane last year, thanks to the right boot of Jonathan Sexton, before a Cooper try helped the hosts on their way to a 22-15 win.
A late converted try from O’Driscoll sealed a 20-20 draw when Ireland entertained the Wallabies at Croke Park back in November 2009.
The Ireland captain certainly seems to like playing against Australia. Who could forget his stunning try for the Lions during the 2001 tour Down Under, his deft effort in the corner at the 2003 World Cup or his finishing off of a real team score in 2008 which earned him the IRPA Try of the Year award?
It is that sort of attacking excellent which Ireland will need to recapture for Saturday’s pool showdown. On the back of his 20th Test success, Kidney believes there is a lot more to come from his side at the World Cup.
Asked how far off full potential they are at present, he replied: “I would say we’re probably playing around 70%. I think there’s that much more in us.
“I see the work-rate the players are putting in at training, and I know how much it means to them and what they want to achieve.
“The important trick is to not force it. Obviously it can lead to a little bit of frustration when it’s not there exactly the way you want it. But I have absolutely no doubt it’s on its way.”
Follow the Ireland team in New Zealand on www.twitter.com/irfurugby.