Australia v Ireland, 24 June 2006, Match Preview (updated)

I only have a few observations to make, and won’t have an after match report this time – I  won’t even be able to see this match live.  Which is a shame because it will surely be worth watching!    I think it will be a great contest, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Australia win by about a try’s worth.  

First Update: commiserations for the U21s who lead 17-12 at half-time but were smashed 20-nil in the second half as the French pack apparently dominated them!   Since South Africa cleaned up NZ 40-23, South Africa shall be fairly confident of beating France, whom they beat just last Saturday, and thus retaining their title.

In other updated news,  if Ireland win, or draw,  they will pass Australia in the World Rankings, whilst if Australia win and France lose, we will pass them –  the top three will then be  NZ, SA and Australia  – thought you’d all like to know that.

(Actual preview, not updated, below the fold)

Backs

That said, we might also run away with it they must be a lot more tired than us now, and for all the talk about their backs, who are very good indeed, so are ours.  The real interest, for my part, will be how Rogers performs against top-drawer opponents.  Their centre pairing of D’Arcy (Six Nations player of the tournament 2004) and O’Driscoll (Six Nations player of the tournament 2006) is really something, and with our drift defence Rogers will really be in the thick of it every time.  Given that he is backed up on each side and behind by the very strongest of tacklers with years of playing together, I think that we will do all right.  But, it is a very big test for our smallest back (besides Gregan, obviously), and in many ways will be an even bigger test for Cameron Shepherd if he replaces him.   (Just as an aside, I respect Mark Ella’s opinion a lot but what does Gary Ella mean about D’Arcy’s ‘leg power’? what does he think Mortlock, Gerrard and Tuquiri’s legs are all like?   Custard?   And D’Arcy is normally going to be tackled by Larkham, who could tackle a train!!)

Forwards

The forwards will also be a much tougher prospect in defence, tired or not I doubt we’ll drive them backwards as easily as England, and I’m sure that they will hit up a lot around the breakdowns, at least at first.   Partly because we have a better backrow (and they a better tight five), so they will prefer to do most of their recycling in the tight, and partly because if they can get over us in tight, they will expect to win.  Scrums I pick to be about an even battle, although I will be interested to see (on video, dammit) how Shepherdson goes, and how long before both Baxter and Paul come on.  With McIsaac throwing and four jumpers, and them missing their number one jumper, we should be better in the lineouts we have to be, because if we aren’t they will kick to touch all day, and also, if we aren’t, we’ll have to kick long but keep it in, which is always risky.      

Conclusion

Which is what I predict them to kick it long and out, us to kick it long and short but mainly in, them to play really hard around the breakdowns for several phases before either a) if they’ve gone forward, spreading it wide, b) if they haven’t, kicking it again.  I expect us to hit it up in the centres first, and to try and get some forwards hitting up and offloading off the centres.   One thing England did was not go wide once or twice then they could have (although they did at the end of the match to get Varndell’s try), Ireland won’t let us off on any organisational lapses like that.

This match should give us real indication of how much salt to apply to our performances over England I’m hoping not much, and I’m particularly hoping for a big showing from the lineout, but at least we’ll find out what to work on.  In all, I think we should be fresher and slightly more effective on the turnovers and the counterattack, so I’ll tip Australia 28 Ireland 16, and allowing for my blatant bias that makes it more like 23-16.   But here’s hoping!

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derrida derider
derrida derider
15 years ago

A good summary, but from what I’ve seen I’ve both teams I’d expect it to be a fairly high scoring match. I’d make it 33-26 to the Irish because I reckon our set pieces are still not quite up to scratch.

But Rogers should be fine in defence – his tackling technique from his league background will stop him being run over, he’s quick enough not to be run around, and he’s small and nimble enough not to be easily stepped. If I had a worry with him it’s the prospect of him being smashed by those big centres when he’s running with the ball.

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

Being smashed, perhaps, but if he is he’ll slow then down enough for Smith, Gregan and Elsom to return the favour.

I think the danger is not so much them stepping, although O’Driscoll didn’t even need to step Ma Nonu in the first step, he just shifted his weight and spun Nonu around like a top, but them running switches off each other, and their outer backs running in to take the close ball and the switch. That is the hardest thing for an inside centre to defend, imho, and they have all the skills to do it.
I think he’ll be right, but it will be a real test.

I think they will both defend tremendously – as I said, both teams will look it kick it downfield. The scrum will certainly be fine when Paul and Baxter come on, but I guess for the lineout I am partly just hoping that what looks very good on paper will be, and that the real problem last week was Freier!

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

Ooops – so although I’d like to see the Wallabies score the four tries you seem to expect, I expect a big defence and not much possession in the other team’s 22, and I’d rather a low-scoring win than see us concede a lot of points.

Paul W
15 years ago

Great summary although there’s a few points I disagree with. Rogers is a weak point in Australia’s defence which is why the Hurricanes ran at him, regardless of where he was playing, in the Super 14 games. I thought Ireland performed well against the All Blacks but conditions restricted the game somewhat and on a dry and fast paddock, perhaps Australia can move them around more.

Australia has, however, struggled to win against a dominant pack (which I suspect is why Connelly is now coach) and I agree taht Ireland has a great forward pack. I think this game will be won in the set pieces with few line breaks by either team – if Australia win, Connelly will be able to claim he’s making progress.

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

I think this quote from Muggleton in today’s Oz is spot on re Rogers:
The first game (at 12, against England in Sydney) he was a little unsure about what he was doing, when he should go, when he should stay and he got caught in two minds. Obviously he has had another game there and he handled it much better and I’m pretty sure he’ll handle it well in the third game.

“There’s a difference between blokes who don’t read defence well and blokes who can’t tackle. Mat Rogers can tackle and what he had to do was learn the intricacies of number 12 compared to number 10 (five-eighth). Besides, if Ireland throw blokes through that area, that’s fine because it puts George Smith right on the ball and I’m quite happy about that.

Paul W
15 years ago

Good points Patrick. I will be watching tonight’s game closely to see how the Irish perform against Australia, not least of all because as a NZers, it will help me calibrate the All Blacks performance.

I think that League players, despite their PR, struggle with the structure of Union, a point best made by Spiro Zavos a while ago in relation to Sailor and Gasnier (incidentally, Ewan McKenzie fisked Zavos’s argument a week or so later though I can’t find the link).

Paul W
15 years ago

Who’d have picked a prop to run 50 metres to score under the post? Good win.