The Australia team has performed admirably during the northern tour, eking out an unbeaten record after wins over Wales, Scotland and France. However, the little Aussie engine that could may come to a shuddering halt if Ireland target the following five areas of Wallaby weakness.
Stop Israel Folau and Tevita Kuridrani
The two form horses of the Aussie backline thrive on space and front foot ball.
However, the Irish loose forward trio of Heaslip, Stander and O’Brien are mobile and aggressive and may be able to swamp Folau and Kuridrani before they can wind up. Folau is elusive but not so much from a standing start.
The Irish will also have to have an accurate kicking game with a lot of short and long variation as Folau loves to counterattack from over-kicked punts.
Kuridrani has scored three tries in the northern campaign, and is a huge threat from set pieces within the 22. He does not offload much, meaning that double-teaming him could be a possibility if he is within striking distance of the tryline.
Both Folau and Kuridrani are big men and do not like being hassled or harried and the fast, frantic Irish pace of play may put both off their games.
Put pressure on the Aussie set pieces
The Australian scrum was destroyed by France in Paris last week and they currently have a scrum success rate lower than USA and Tonga during the Autumn internationals.
The Irish scrum was strong, even dominant against the All Blacks and with Tadhg Furlong in the form of his life, this could a source of real pain for the Aussies.
The line-out has improved since being decimated in the Rugby Championship, but contesting the jump will be key as one area the Irish targeted with success against the All Blacks in Chicago.
Swamp Bernard Foley
Foley is a hot and cold rugby player. If his running game is on, he can dominate games such as his incredible 28 point performance to knock England out of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. He had a forgettable Rugby Championship as he was played at second five eight and was overwhelmed by the All Blacks.
Now, back in his preferred position of fly-half, he has been a key figure in sneaking wins against the northern teams. His elusive running game has returned and this has flowed through to his overall game management. Ireland can blunt this confidence by employing the All Black tactic of the rush defence. In doing so, they will have to be careful of Foley’s short kicking game but if they can set him back on his heels early in the game, he may not recover his swagger.
Fast, aggressive breakdowns
David Pocock and Michael Hooper are two of the world’s premier turnover winners. If they are given time to arrive and establish strong positions over the ball, more than likely turnovers and penalties follow.
The All Blacks negated a lot of the ‘Pooper’ influence by clearing the breakdowns quickly or not having them at all by using their outstanding offloading skills. Ireland, particularly among the loose forwards like Sean O’Brien, showed they possess similar qualities and they must keep the tempo and aggression high throughout the 80 minutes.
Target the youngsters
After the supercharged All Blacks game, the atmosphere in Dublin will be electric.
This atmosphere, combined with the pressure of winning the Grand Slam, may begin to affect some of the younger, more inexperienced Australia players.
Reece Hodge and Dane Haylett-Petty have made great strides in their careers during the Northern tour, but without being under extreme pressure. The lock Adam Coleman is another whose game has shown much more maturity of late, but one wonders if the impulsive ill discipline he showed against the All Blacks will return if he gets frustrated.
Joe Schmidt has shown an ability to adjust tactics to target areas of weakness and these three players may on his radar.
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