Aussies eye Irish on next step to Grand Slam


Michael Cheika’s rejuvenated Australia will bid to beat Ireland on Saturday and move to within one victory of emulating the legendary 1984 side’s Grand Slam of the Home Nations.

Cheika admitted to AFP this week that he had had to reset to zero his Wallaby project this year after he realised the new faces were a bit lost having not been part of the group that reached the 2015 World Cup final.

It certainly appears to have worked wonders as they have beaten Wales, Scotland and France in the past three weeks.

The 49-year-old coach knows Ireland well having guided Leinster in 2009 to the first of their three European Cup titles.

However Australia face an Ireland side who are seeking to add the third of the Southern Hemisphere giants scalps to their list this year having beaten South Africa on the close season tour and then the historic victory over world champions New Zealand in Chicago three weeks ago.

Cheika, who was named world coach of the year for 2015 on the back of turning round a demoralised outfit when he took over in 2014, has declared his intent in recalling several of his heavy hitters, grizzled veterans from the World Cup campaign such as skipper Stephen Moore, who was brought up in Ireland before his parents emigrated.

“Maybe I went on ahead with too many different themes and tried to evolve those as opposed to understanding there were a lot of new guys and it was best to restart from zero and rebuild,” Cheika told AFP.

“We did that and we began to feel a lot more comfortable.”

Cheika, who is the only coach to win both the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere continental club competitions as he won the Super Rugby trophy with the Waratahs in 2014, will not countenance any talk of the Grand Slam saying the next match is the one that counts.

However, he has made it plain to his squad how tough it is to play at this time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere when the players from the southern hemisphere are feeling jaded after a long hard campaign including the Rugby Championship.

“We have our work cut out for us as they (the Irish) got closer to the All Blacks in those two games (the Irish lost to the All Blacks 21-9 last Saturday) than we did in the three we played against New Zealand,” said Cheika.

– historic –

“New Zealand are the standard bearer for the game at the moment.”

The Wallabies, though, face an Ireland side that took a battering physically in the second match with the New Zealanders and lost key players in centre Robbie Henshaw and chief playmaker fly-half Jonathan Sexton to injuries.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has replaced them with Ulster fly-half Paddy Jackson and 21-year-old centre Garry Ringrose — both of whom fared pretty well against the All Blacks after coming on early last Saturday.

Schmidt, though, acknowledges that finishing on a high for this year is a tough ask.

“I’d like to think that we can finish really positively, in a similar vein, and it would be great to get the result; it would be a bit historic,” said Schmidt.

“If we could get a result against Australia after getting a result in Cape Town and a result in Chicago, we could really say that we’ve got some kids that are coming through and that we’re building something that will endure a little bit further into next year and the year after.”

© 2016 AFP

Article source: