Superstar playmaker Johnny Sexton returns among sweeping changes to Ireland’s starting team when they attempt to level their Test series with the Wallabies.
Sexton replaces young five eighth Joey Carbery, re-establishing his successful scrum-base partnership with halfback Conor Murray for the second Test at Melbourne’s AAMI Park on Saturday night.
Coach Joe Schmidt has made big changes to his forwards with a new front row of Cian Healy, Niall Scannell and Tadhg Furlong while Dan Leavey comes in at openside flanker ahead of Jordi Murphy and Devin Toner joins James Ryan in the second row.
Leavey will be crucial in the breakdown battle where David Pocock dominated for the Wallabies during the first Test win in Brisbane.
Star outside centre Gary Ringrose comes in, with Robbie Henshaw switching to inside centre and Andrew Conway takes over on the right wing from Jacob Stockdale.
IRELAND: Rob Kearney, Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls, Johnny Sexton, Connor Murray, CJ Stander, Dan Leavy, Peter O’Mahony (capt), James Ryan, Devin Toner, Tadhg Furlong, Niall Scannell, Cian Healy. Res: Rob Herring, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour.
The fate of the series was in the balance until the very last play of the game. If Bernard Foley’s pass had reached its target, the Wallabies would have scored a try to win the series; but the ball didn’t go to hand, and Ireland took the Lansdowne trophy back home instead.
The loss of the series to Ireland could be the defeat the Wallabies needed to have, provided the right lessons are learnt from it by Michael Cheika. The main lesson (and there are several others) is that the Wallabies need a world class playmaker at number 10.
Well – the Wallabies’ three-match series against Ireland is at an end, and the July international window is over. But before we get back to Super Rugby, we’d like to know what you made of Australia’s peformance.