So here we go, the blue jersey has had the tears of victory washed off it and has been neatly put in the cupboard to rest for a few months and the green jersey is ready to be worn over the next 3 weeks.
11 am starts make pub visits difficult so hopefully these will be watched in bed, but we can always dream. Ireland head to the land of kangaroos, shrimps on the Barbie and Harold and Madge Ramsey. Australia welcomes the Irish and welcome the chance to topple the form team in world rugby.
So what should Ireland expect from the 3 tests?
The squad needs to be used over the three games. Joe has been great through his career at using as many of the available players as possible. Ireland fell apart in the last world cup because of a lack of backup in every position. That was partly because of the concrete status of the starters and also the need for results at the time. You always pick your best to get the win, especially if you are worried about the backup. That has been massively addressed in the big provinces and the national side. Ireland has at least 3 backups (2 strong) in each position. The difference between starting 15 and the bench/fringe players is minimal. It eliminates complacency that may have been there in past years. Some players may have thought that their name was on the jersey, whereas now (outside of 10) Ireland has no names on shirt.
The teams have been announced. And King Joe has made a massive call. Joey Carberry starts beside Conor Murray, McGrath starts, Herring starts and Aki starts. Some changes made to rest players and some made to get time in the pilot’s seat. Carberry has his future sorted so a start is good for him. If he is fit, he is in the squad based on his recent move and its orchestrations. This is not good for the other 10’s coming through who know this, but that is another story for another time.
This to me is the second test team picked first. And there isn’t a massive gap between team 1 and 2. No weak links anywhere. The game is slightly different in how it will be played based on the personnel picked but it will be a strong start. Herring will have a massive day against a brand new Australia hooker who is also playing for his jersey. The Australian 10 is handy too; they really are quite delicious in their backline potential. Ireland has the pack to strangle them but if they home side can find parity in contact/set piece then they will have a chance. Especially with their Foley (10) Beale(12) and Genia (9) ready, willing and able to change direction and slice open the opposition. Ireland needs to be switched on from the time they get on the bus from the team hotel.
Australia comes in winning 3 of 5. Losing to Scotland and England, but with a win over the All Blacks in there too. This is their first game of their season, so will they be able to hit the ground running. Will internal issues (Falou) cause a rift? Injuries mount and the bench will be needed. Ireland have a grand slam front row to come on, they have Johnny Sexton to come on, Conan and Larmour to come on. This is an insane bench. If Ireland are playing as expected and winning the game pre substitution then the score line will be massive. Even if the game is close, bringing those lads on will push Ireland over the line. Australia are just past the phase of having a new coach, they are settled. Ireland has no fear of the home bench.
So what is the outcome or expectations from the series for Ireland? Some say 3-0, some say a home series win. At the end of the day, Ireland has to win the series. There is no point in going into the next set of competitive games with a loss in the southern hemisphere. Now is the time to be putting the mental bullets into the southern teams. The more teams you have who don’t want to play you the better. New Zealand are not looking forward to coming to Dublin in November, it is time to put Australia in that same negative mental space.
Ireland to win this game by 7-10 points.