Schmidt heading down under looking for third tour win

Derm McCrum Roar Guru

By Derm McCrum, Derm McCrum is a Roar Guru


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    Here’s an easy one. Who was the first European rugby union to win a tour series in the Southern Hemisphere? And here’s a clue, it wasn’t France or England. Or Wales, Scotland or Italy either. Got it yet?

    While Ireland’s playing history – home and away – against South Africa and New Zealand is littered with one failure after another in the amateur days, surprisingly their record against Australia is pockmarked with wins at home and on the road, albeit matches were held less frequently in the BSE (baggy shorts era).

    It might be that not many people know this, but Ireland has had four proper rugby tours of Australia – in 1967, 1979, 1994 and 1999. By ‘proper’ I mean old-style tours involving matches against provincial union or state teams as well as one or two test matches against the Wallabies. And, rather surprisingly, Ireland have won two of them and lost two.

    Ireland’s fifth tour of Australia begins with the first of three tests on 9 June and it promises to settle a few scores, mark the overall ledger up in favour of one and probably create a few bragging and bagging rights along the way for fans and commentators.

    Australia won the first two tests between the countries in 1927 and 1947 in Lansdowne Road in Dublin. On the Australian tour of Britain, Ireland and France in 1958 Ireland got their first Test win on the board. Over the next 20 years the teams met seven times, with Ireland winning six of them, including their first-ever away test in Sydney as part of their first six-game tour of Australia in 1967.

    Ireland’s last two test wins in Australia were those of the famous 1979 tour when the Irish team had their most successful winning patch, playing eight games, including two tests, and losing just once against a local representative team, Sydney.

    Ireland Rugby Union Six Nations 2017

    (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

    Ollie Campbell, Mike Gibson, Terry Kennedy, Paul McNaughton, Tony Ward, Willie Duggan, Moss Keane and Fergus Slattery were some of the better known names on that tour. Tony Ward was the star name playing outhalf for Ireland. He had been named European player of the year for the second year running. All the running assumptions were that he’d play in a few of the run-up games and start the first test at the helm. A few days beforehand the Irish manager and coach thought different and, inexplicably to everyone, picked Campbell to start.

    Ireland scored 36 points across the two tests, with Campbell kicking 28 of them, bringing his total to 60 points for the tour. He was named player of the tour. Ward, by his own admission in his autobiography, never played as well again and laid the blame squarely with the manager and at coach’s door for how they handled what became known in Irish rugby as ‘the decision’.

    Campbell returned home the hero of the hour by helping to claim the first individual tour victory by a northern team in the Southern Hemisphere – France had won eight out of nine matches but drawn the first test on a tour in 1972. Ireland’s overall win record stood at six wins to Australia’s three

    Campbell and the team were cheered to the rafters. Ireland went on to win the five-nations in 1982, shared it with France in 1983 and won it outright again in 1985. And then the curtain came down and the roof started to fall in.

    Two further two-test tours against Australia followed in 1994 and 1999 – Ireland lost all the Test matches and most of the midweek games against ACT, Sydney and New South Wales among others.

    Those two tours formed part of what is probably the lowest period in Irish rugby. Ireland played 11 tests against Australia, eight against New Zealand and six against South Africa between 1980 and 2002, and they lost every game. Despite their initial successes in the 1980s, their record in that period against five/six-nations opponents was not much better: three wins from 24 against France, seven from 24 versus both England and Scotland and even losing three from eight against Italy.

    Ireland's fly half Jonny Sexton kicks a penalty

    (AFP Photo / Ian Macnicol)

    From 2002 onwards, when professionalism finally took hold and Irish provinces entered the Celtic League, the fortunes of the Irish provinces and test side changed, first under Eddie O’Sullivan, winning a test again against Australia in 2002 and for the first time against South Africa in 2004.

    They moved from being regular wooden spooners in the 1990s to competing at the top in the new six-nations. Then they finally achieved a second grand slam in 2009 with Declan Kidney, 61 years after their first. They remained unbeaten that year, finishing with a 15-10 win against Lions victors and the reigning Tri-Nations champions South Africa.

    Of course after Ireland finally won again in 2002 Australia promptly won the next four tests. Another Irish win in 2006 was followed by two Wallabies wins and a draw. Then came the Rugby World Cup pool match in 2011, with both teams meeting on neutral New Zealand territory.

    Australia ran into Stephen Ferris and Sean O’Brien for the first time and Will Genia found himself being picked up and carried backwards while his teammates were held up time and again in the famous choke tackle and eventually out of the game. Australia won the next test in 2013 and Ireland won the next one a year later, and the next one again in 2016.

    Nonetheless, Australia continue to have the upper hand – 21 wins to Ireland’s 11 (and a sister-smooching draw). But Ireland is determined to close the gap further.


    (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

    So now it’s the turn of Joe Schmidt to bring the Ireland squad Down Under for a three-test series in June. Expectations are high, with Ireland’s recent grand slam win and record against the Wallabies – except they haven’t won in Oz for 39 years.

    Their last away loss was in Brisbane in June 2010 as part of a New Zealand/Australia tour. On that day newcomer outhalf Johnny Sexton kicked all of Ireland’s 15 points in the first half to Australia’s 16 points, but the Declan Kidney-coached team, off the back of a 97-point shellacking from the All Blacks and New Zealand Maori in the previous weeks and down a few key players, couldn’t overtake the Wallabies as Giteau notched another couple of penalties to finish them off 22-15.

    Eight years on from Brisbane, both teams are in different places and ranking. Cheika is hoping to fashion a team that can compete and win in the Rugby Championship. He needs a decent scalp on his belt going into that battle.

    Schmidt has the Six Nations in his back pocket and a team that is beginning to hum nicely with a mix of old heads and young hearts running a new 12-match streak. Ireland are the current holders of the Lansdowne Cup, the trophy fought between the two sides since 1999.

    England, Scotland and Wales have all announced squads with development and player rest on their minds as coaches seek to add depth to their teams for Rugby World Cup 2019. Irish pundits and fans have been making similar noises querying whether players such as Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Tadhg Furlong, Christiaan Stander should rest on their summer holidays and let the younger Turks get more time and experience.

    Schmidt has faced this before, imposed through injury rather than selection by choice, when he brought a relatively raw squad to South Africa and gave much-needed game time to some new faces including Furlong, Stander, Iain Henderson, Quinn Roux and Kieran Marmion.

    Schmidt will want to win the series, but he needs to give more time to the newbies. He’s got plenty of choice this time around and all of them hungry for some tasty wallaby.

    Wider squad choices

    Hookers: Rory Best, Sean Cronin, Niall Scannell, Rob Herring
    Props: TH – Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter, John Ryan, Finlay Bealham; LH – Cian Healy, Jack McGrath, David Kilcoyne, James Cronin
    Locks: Iain Henderson, Devin Toner, Jas Ryan, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Tadhg Beirne
    Flankers: Peter O’Mahony, Rhys Ruddock, Dan Leavy, Jordi Murphy, Sean Reidy
    Eight-men: CJ Stander, Jack Conan, Jack O’Donoghue
    SH: Conor Murray, Luke McGrath, Kieran Marmion, John Cooney
    10: Jonathan Sexton, Joey Carbery, Ian Keatley, Adam Byrne
    Midfield: Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Chris Farrell, Stuart McCloskey, Rory Scannell, Sam Arnold
    Wings: Keith Earls, Jacob Stockdale, Adam Byrne, Craig Gilroy, Alex Wootton, Rory O’Loughlin
    FB: Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Andrew

    *Injured and not available to tour: Sean O’Brien, Fergus McFadden and Josh van der Flier.

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    The Crowd Says (92)

    • May 14th 2018 @ 4:27am
      Lara said | May 14th 2018 @ 4:27am | ! Report

      Ireland away from home with a coach who knows his stuff. Ireland do look the goods to take out this series. The Wallabies team will not vary very much from last season , based on SR form , the lack of time for Cheika to experiment n based on his past selections n there lies the problem. Schmidt has a clear game plan , the players to carry it out n he can taste victory . Schmidt will not be a Eddie Jones for the media to feed off, the man will be low key , say the right things n just stay under the radar . It would be a brave man to bet against him. The quiet ones are the ones you need to watch n Schmidt is definitely one of those.

    • May 14th 2018 @ 4:52am
      Taylorman said | May 14th 2018 @ 4:52am | ! Report

      Such a pity he wont have got much our of Leinsters win then. Not convinced they have a 3-0 win in them but other than that any result is possible.

    • May 14th 2018 @ 6:59am
      Kane said | May 14th 2018 @ 6:59am | ! Report

      My guess for this upcoming June internationals are for a 3-0 win to NZ and SA, I suspect SA’s warm up match will do them wonders and stop them from being caught on the bounce.

      And a 2-1 loss for Australia seeing how they’re coming up against the best the North has to offer.

      • May 14th 2018 @ 7:20am
        Taylorman said | May 14th 2018 @ 7:20am | ! Report

        For me the default for these tours is still a SH win for all three as only one? or two counting the Lions in Oz, of what is it? 15? 18 times now? have been won by any one of the NH sides.

        England will be stronger than theyre letting on but with 4 SR wins vs NZ sides the Boks wont be easy, plus Rassie ha sfull access to his NH players.

        Theres no way Ireland should lose, but somehow I think theyll find a away…

        • May 14th 2018 @ 7:53am
          Kane said | May 14th 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

          I think Ireland is better coached and has better players than the English team that won 3-0. I don’t think the Australian team has improved considerably since then.

          It’d be great to see Aus get up and win the series but I can’t see it happening.

          I dunno about England being stronger than they let on, I think the warm up for SA will be huge for them.

          I went back and watch the highlights of all Eddie’s games with England a while back and I truely believe that he’s a master of coming up with the best game plan for the troops he’s got. But, he’s not very good at developing players nor developing evolving game plans.

          • Roar Rookie

            May 14th 2018 @ 5:43pm
            Kirky said | May 14th 2018 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

            Kane! Agree entirely and for sure there’s no doubt Ireland is the top guns ”up there”. ~ Eddie and his England side have imploded and to be honest I did predict that would happen as the English have always been a flaky side, they’re either playing or they’re not and the records book confirms that, ~ rarely have they challenged the All Blacks.

            Eddie had his team on an all time high, really believing in themselves and they did well, but these days it all seems to have gone awry and big cracks are appearing and by what we all read they seem to have lost confidence, with the Coach and whatever else, so right now Jones is doing all he can to get that oomph’ back and self belief!

            Sadly the lousy rugby Scribes on Fleet St, had them as unbackable winners and all they had to do come World Cup time was to turn up to win it, now who knows!!

            I think they’ll struggle in South Africa also and, like you say, so perhaps will the Aussies’ as they are possibly travelling worse than England!

            As far as Jones goes as a Coach, and for what my opinion is worth, I reckon he is nothing better than a mediocre Coach who bluffs his way through and up till recently you just couldn’t shut him up, these days hardly a whimper!

            I also think that bringing in Brad Shields could very well bite him right on the butt as it appears there’s a gross miscalculation of the mood of the Locals one way or the other and there is no doubt a big “unfair” tag hanging over that selection, there goes the confidence thing again!

    • Roar Guru

      May 14th 2018 @ 7:31am
      Colm said | May 14th 2018 @ 7:31am | ! Report

      Excellent article, Derm.
      Enjoyed the history review, as well. I think quite a lot of Southern Hemisphere folk will get a shock when they see Beirne and James Ryan in action for the first time. Henderson and Farrell are out injured, I’m pretty sure. Schmidt always seems to throw in some selection grenade as well. Roux, Dil;ane, J.Ryan, Herring, Diack, Heffernan all seemed like pretty random inclusions at the time, they made their International debuts. Who will be the bolter this time? Maybe a Johnny McPhillips, Shane Delahunt, Gavin Thornbury, Ross Byrne or even JJ Hanrahan after a good game in the pro 14 semi finals.

      • Roar Guru

        May 14th 2018 @ 8:17am
        Derm McCrum said | May 14th 2018 @ 8:17am | ! Report

        Cheers Colm. The history review of the early tours was good fun to research. The squads were so much smaller as well. I think just 23 players for the 1967 tour. Mike Gibson was part of that too.

        Agree about the possible bolter although Schmidt said late last year that Australia was no place for new tryouts. We’ll have to wait and see what happens on the injury front with the big Championship semifinal between Leinster and Munster this weekend, and the final in the last week.

        If Henderson is out, then I’m sure Roux will travel as the favored TH lock. It should also out Dillane in the frame. Beirne has had a lot of clock minutes with Scarlets this season and could have two further exhausting games before the PRO14 finishes. If Schmidt wanted to throw a mischievous surprise, he could select Donncha Ryan who has had a superb season with Racing. That would set tongues wagging.

        You’re right about Chris Farrell – forgot it was an ACL injury. That could put Sammy Arnold in the frame as back up to Ringrose and then Aki as backup to Henshaw. Ross Byrne or JJ Hanrahan would be interesting but I’d doubt it. I’d love to see Ulster’s player of the season, John Cooney, get a run at 9.

        • Roar Guru

          May 14th 2018 @ 5:42pm
          Colm said | May 14th 2018 @ 5:42pm | ! Report

          23 players for a tour with provincial matches is impressive. They did have the benefit of no All-Ireland League, though.

          There were some legendary Irish players on that 1979 tour. Like you said above, Tony Ward was a superstar. Moss Keane was always a legendary figure(with his GAA background) in my house growing up. His autobiography, written by Billy Keane is a really witty and interesting read.

          It would be good to see Cooney get a chance. Perfect partner for Carbery, considering his kicking and game management. Gavin Thornbury is a huge man(Height: 2.04 m, Weight: 117 kg) and could fill the tighthead lock position if selected. Keane and Dillane didn’t seem to get on too well, but Thornbury was the mainstay in the Connacht engine room with Dillane and Roux rotating.

          Considering Ireland’s relative lack of depth at hooker, I think Delahunt is an interesting call. If there are two Connacht locks touring(potentially three) it might make sense to give Delahunt a go over the likes of Tracy and Herring.

          • Roar Guru

            May 14th 2018 @ 6:07pm
            Derm McCrum said | May 14th 2018 @ 6:07pm | ! Report

            Good points, Colm. Thornbury does have the advantage of having played in NZ for a while but if Schmidt confines himself to a squad of 32, would he really make room for him, even accepting that Hendo is out?

            You’re right – hooking stocks are not good so the Delahunt call is an interesting one. I figured at this point that Schmidt’s 3 RWC hookers were Best, Cronin and either Scannell/Herring. Tracy is there as well but another option could prove useful in making things more competitive next season if nothing else.

            • Roar Guru

              May 14th 2018 @ 6:45pm
              Colm said | May 14th 2018 @ 6:45pm | ! Report

              Agree. It will probably come down to two from Roux,Thornbury and Dillane for the last two lock spots, to join Toner, J.Ryan and Beirne.

              You’d imagine Best and Cronin will tour if fit. Scannell could be third choice, but he has had an injury-wrecked season and is currently out injured again. So another three way fight between Tracy, Herring and Delahunt, maybe.

    • Roar Guru

      May 14th 2018 @ 7:34am
      Machooka said | May 14th 2018 @ 7:34am | ! Report

      Always enjoy your reads Poth… and this was no different. Thanks!

      I’m really looking forward to this series against your mob later this year. Dare I say it’ll be a challenge for both sides with plenty at stake… bragging rights, pride and a looming RWC next season. Likewise, England’s tour to SA will be immense, especially now that they can pick from their offshore players.

      • May 14th 2018 @ 7:54am
        Kane said | May 14th 2018 @ 7:54am | ! Report

        Let’s not forget, if Ireland go 3-0 they’ll challenge for the No1 ranking in November if they’ve not claimed it before then.

        • Roar Guru

          May 14th 2018 @ 9:12am
          Machooka said | May 14th 2018 @ 9:12am | ! Report

          Impossible Kane… you say 3 zip??

          Be buggered! 🙂

      • Roar Guru

        May 14th 2018 @ 8:20am
        Derm McCrum said | May 14th 2018 @ 8:20am | ! Report

        Thanks Chook. The series should be a cracker with a lot of love/hate amongst commentators and fans. 😏

        A 1-1 after the first two tests should get the passions rising nicely and would be ideal.

        • Roar Guru

          May 14th 2018 @ 9:11am
          Machooka said | May 14th 2018 @ 9:11am | ! Report

          Aye Poth… not only a cracker but with lots of craic eh!?! 😉

    • May 14th 2018 @ 8:15am
      waxhead said | May 14th 2018 @ 8:15am | ! Report

      I’m expecting Ireland to win this series comfortably.
      Aust Rugby continues to decline in 2018 imo