The Wallabies’ depth has been given a massive boost ahead of the Bledisloe Cup, with experienced playmaker Matt Toomua inking a two-and-a-half-year deal to return to Australian rugby.
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The first time Will Genia encountered the Irish seven years ago he and the Wallabies underestimated them and were sorely punished for their “disrespect”.
This time it’s ill-discipline rather than arrogance which Australia is railing against when the Six Nations champions aim to break a 39-year drought Down Under.
Against a well-grooved outfit expert at retaining possession and playing for territory, Genia fears the punishment from Jonny Sexton’s boot if the Wallabies continue to be the “worst” disciplined top-tier side in world rugby.
The linchpin halfback warned Australia would flounder in the three-Test series if they don’t immediately clean up their act and stop giving away needless penalties.
“It is going to be huge,” Genia said. “We are the most penalised side in the top 10 nations so if you’re going to give three, six, nine,12 points to a guy (Sexton) who is going to kick them every time you are chasing your tail from the start of the game.
“It’s something we have had trouble with the last few years and it’s something we really have to fix.”
On the flip side, the Irish, who held the ball 23 phases in the final play of the game to set up a match-winning Sexton field goal to beat France in their Six Nations opener, are assured in defence and attack.
“They give away the least amount of penalties out of the top 10 nations in rugby and they hold on to the ball for long periods of time,” he said.
“It’s going to be a war of attrition in that sense and it’s something we have to be prepared for.”
It was a war of attrition seven years ago at Eden Park when the Wallabies’ 2011 World Cup campaign went off the rails with a memorable 15-6 boilover.
Since then, Australia have never fallen into the same trap of taking the Irish lightly but still lost their last two meetings – albeit in Dublin.
“When I look back there we underestimated them in that (2011) game, which is pretty disrespectful and they taught us a lesson,” he said.
Despite missing a month of Super Rugby with a knee ligament strain, Genia insists he’s ready to fire if selected as expected on Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium.
The presence of the 88-Test halfback is a massive boost to Australia who always look a far more assured attacking side with him calling the shots.
There have been fears he won’t be up to the rigours of the Test match arena but the vice-captain denied he’d be underdone.
“I could have played (on Saturday for the Rebels). I was about 80 to 85 per cent, but I still felt like that if I was out there playing I’d still be hesitating a little bit,” he said.
The Wallabies are yet to confirm a replacement for injured hooker Jordan Uelese in a sign rookie rakes Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Folau Faingaa will both debut on Saturday.