Scott Fardy and Sekope Kepu to face Irish forwards down
McKenzie feels blindside flanker can bring some energy to the Aussies’ pack
Scott Fardy: “It’s probably not for my good looks he picked me.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
That Ewen McKenzie’s two changes to the Australian team to face Ireland are in the pack hints to what he sees as the winning of Saturday’s game. Isn’t it always. Ben Alexander’s omission from the frontrow because of fatigue also points to end of Australian season tour issues that Joe Schmidt does not have to face.
The tighthead prop Sekope Kepu comes in for Alexander but more telling is the introduction of blindside flanker Scott Fardy, who McKenzie hopes will bring a more competitive spirit into his backrow and the breakdown.
Fardy has been a late bloomer and spent some time in the wilderness of Japan before being offered a place in Super Rugby. At 29 years old he has seven caps.
“I couldn’t get a run at Super Rugby. But I got offered a contract in Japan for three years,” he says. “Obviously things have gone well for me since then.”
An unchanged back line that poured over the Italians last week gives the creative rump more time to settle into each other’s game as Mckenzie seeks to get them to gel. But as Fardy points out, Will Genia, Quade Cooper and Israel Folau need him and the rest of the low numbers to face down the Irish forwards.
‘My good looks’
“It’s probably not for my good looks he picked me,” said Fardy. “Hopefully it’s for my energy that I bring to the team. The breakdown is part of that. Hopefully my all-round game is enough. I’ve never seen a team win when their forwards didn’t win the battle so . . . You got to win the battle as a forward pack and that’s where it starts. It’s obviously going to be a contest there.”
Fardy played against Seán O’Brien during the summer Lions tour, although not Jamie Heaslip or Peter O’Mahony. But McKenzie remarked yesterday that they had also been looking at Leinster matches to see combinations in both the pack and the backs.
“I played against O’Brien in the Brumbies game against the Lions so . . . we swapped jerseys at the end of the game,” said Fardy. “He’s a quality player. Heaslip I don’t think I’ve played against. Some of those guys are up with the world’s best.
“It’s going to be a tough battle and they are very experienced in that area, not only in the backrow but also in the tight five so it’s going to be a tough breakdown battle.”
McKenzie has also loaded his bench with impact players. “After losing to England the boys bounced back and trained hard and then they got the right results in Italy,” said Fardy. “So they have been enjoying Dublin and training well and looking forward to Saturday. Everyone is very positive about it,”