Former Leinster coach Michael Cheika has repeated his assertion that his Wallabies side will be facing the best Irish team in history in Saturday's test series opener at Suncorp Stadium.
Lavishing praise on Ireland, who are Grand Slam champions, on a run of 12 successive wins and ranked second in the world, there was perhaps a mischievous glint in his eye when Cheika happily embraced the underdog tag. This is not a common practice for any Australia side in any sport, much less at home to Ireland, who haven’t beaten Australia down under since 1979.
“They’re the best team Ireland has had since the start of their rugby history. They’re coming down here as number two in the world. They can claim that they’re underdogs as much as the like, but they’re certainly going to be the favourites when you go off the back of the season they’ve had.
“We’re going to need to have that team effort to be there but what I’ve seen this weekend, I’ve been really happy around team ethic, attitude, our connection together.”
Asked to explain why he felt this was the best Irish team in history, Cheika said: “I obviously know them pretty well around the people. Maybe not as much a lot of the newer guys but they’re extremely competitive and they’ve got great players, out-and-out great players but also new players like Carbery, Ringrose, these guys you don’t even know, Henshaw, Ryan the young second rower.
"I don't know Tadhg Furlong, he wasn't there when I was there, but he's been immense for them. So they've got out-and-out gun players, the back rowers as well, and they're very consistent.
“But we’ve focused a lot on ourselves this week. The first weekend we tried to cram as much as we can into six days, so we’ve put the focus on ourselves and we’ll deliver some things that will try to make them get off the consistent game they play.”
The young Queensland Reds pair of starting hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa (22) and reserve backrower Caleb Timu (24) are both in line to make their Wallabies debuts against Ireland at Suncorp Stadium in Saturday's test series opener.
The recently acquired, Melbourne-born and until recently Crusaders backrower, Pete Samu, could also make his Australian debut after being named on a bench with a six-two split that also features the once-capped Taniela Tupou.
Paenga-Amosa is former garbage man, landscaper and theology student, who was unwanted by representative teams until brought into the Reds fold by Brad Thorn at the start of this season. Now, after an impressive Super Rugby debut season he will start his first test in on Saturday, while the four-times capped Tolu Latu has edged out Folau Faingaa as back-up hooker after being added to Cheika's initial squad on Wednesday.
The Wallabies have named a settled back line, albeit it is a little surprising that Samu Kerevi's undoubted attacking ability has been preferred ahead of Tevita Kuridrani, more experienced and more accomplished defensively.
Dane Haylett-Petty will start on the wing in his first Test since the All Blacks fixture in Dunedin last August, while Marika Koroibete has earned selection on the other edge. Izack Rodda will partner Adam Coleman in the second row behind regular props Scott Sio and Sekope Kepu.
“I just want us to be a great team, not great at anything in particular,” added Cheika. “I want us to be great in our attitude and our work ethic, our trust of each other, but then we will be imperfect around some of the other stuff and we’re playing against a mighty opposition as well.”
Australia: Israel Folau; Marika Koroibete, Samu Kerevi, Kurtley Beale,Dane Haylett-Petty; Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Sekope Kepu; Izack Rodda, Adam Coleman; David Pocock, Michael Hooper (Capt), Caleb Timu.
Replacements: Tolu Latu, Allan Alaalatoa, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Lukhan Tui, Pete Samu, Nick Phipps, Reece Hodge.