No untouchables on Joe’s watch
Coach seeks to grow the collective against one of the world powers in international rugby
Whereas Australia retain only four of the starting XV which met Ireland the last time the countries met, at the 2011 World Cup, Ireland retain 11 of their line-up from that seismic 15-6 win.
So despite the new era, revolutionary fervour, there’s something old, new, borrowed and blue about this team, the latter being a tried and trusted Leinster spine for the time being.
“Australia are one of the world powers in international rugby. They are going to be incredibly tough to beat and we feel we have put a good team out against them,” said Schmidt, who cited the fact that O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll are starting their first Irish Test in harness for over two years as evidence they have to prepare for the probability that they will be missing some of their best players sometimes.
O’Connell, the re-instated skipper, came over all wise and sage-like, in admitting: “Even last week, you take for granted even popping into Rala’s room in the week of the Tests and how special those moments are,” he said in reference to the room of Paddy O’Reilly, Ireland’s baggage man.
“The bus to the ground, the Aviva, those moments are going to be less and less for me now. There isn’t as many ahead of me as I would have liked to have thought there would have been a few years ago.
“It definitely makes you enjoy it more, cherish it more. But the build up to the last few weeks has been great, the training has been good and it gives you a great vibe going into the last couple of years of my career.”
He has been struck by the core of leaders throughout the team, five established provincial or Irish captains plus a few other experienced players.
“I think it’s incredibly important. I think any team I’ve been involved in, with Ireland or Munster, has had people across the pack and across the backline who could have been captain. You can see it with other teams; it is very rare a young, inexperienced side wins big Test matches or tournaments.”
IRELAND (v Australia): R Kearney; T Bowe, B O’Driscoll, L Marshall, F McFadden; J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy, R Best, M Ross; D Toner, P O’Connell; P O’Mahony, S O’Brien, J Heaslip. Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, S Archer, M McCarthy, K McLaughlin, C Murray, I Madigan, R Henshaw.