Quade Cooper was outstanding against Italy. Image courtesy of news.com.au
Just over six months ago there was every chance Ewen McKenzie could have been coaching Ireland at international level, rather than Australia . In the end, the job in the Emerald Isle went to New Zealander Joe Schmidt, who had plenty of success with Leinster before getting the top gig.
Back when Declan Kidney was in charge of Ireland and another Kiwi, Robbie Deans, was at the helm of the Wallabies, Australia went down in the pool stage of the 2011 Rugby World Cup 15-6 at Eden Park in Auckland. In a tryless contest, Australia’s pack was again overwhelmed and it’s hard to see the Irish deviating from a plan to destroy the visitors at set pieces again. Super boot Jonny Sexton, who tormented Australia during the British and Irish Lions tour mid-year, is back in the No. 10 jersey this week after he was rested from the 40-9 victory over Samoa last weekend.
Australia had a similarly big win and produced one of its most impressive performances during McKenzie’s tenure with a 50-20 rout of Italy in Turin. The tourists were down 10-0 after 15 minutes but it was all one-way traffic from there, with Quade Cooper producing one of his best efforts in the green and gold. The scrum held up relatively well and Italy had little answer for powerful Wallaby backs like Israel Folau and Tevita Kuridrani.
Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau makes his return from a hamstring injury from the bench this week after his Super Rugby season was wrecked by a broken arm. Backrower Scott Fardy returns at blindside flanker, Rob Simmons moves from that spot to his usual position in the second row while Sekope Kepu will start in the front-row.
The Wallabies are yet to win back-to-back Tests this season. Dublin hasn’t been a happy hunting ground of late, either. They’ve won just once on their past four visits to the Republic of Ireland capital, although they did manage a 20-20 draw back in 2009. It will be the teams’ first meeting at Aviva Stadium, the 50,000-seat stadium built on the site of the former Lansdowne Road stadium.
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