Cheika says Ireland team is 'best they've had since start of their rugby history'

Simon Lewis, Brisbane

Australia head coach Michael Cheika has labelled the Wallabies’ Test opponents this month as “the best team Ireland has had since the start of their rugby history”.

Former Heineken Cup-winning Leinster boss Cheika coached many of Ireland’s 2009 Grand Slam winners during his time in Ireland and he sees the current Grand Slam-winning team as a cut above as he prepares to face Joe Schmidt’s number two-ranked side on the world over three Tests, starting with Saturday’s series opener at Suncorp Stadium.

Cheika sees the series as an excellent test for his overhauled Wallabies squad, with only 11 survivors from the outfit he steered to the 2015 World Cup final.

"I just want us to be a great team, not great at anything in particular,” the Australia coach said after naming his side to face the Irish.

“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.

"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."

Cheika’s admiration for the tourists runs across Schmidt’s team and he added: "I obviously know them pretty well, 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 (Joey) Carbery, (Garry) Ringrose, these guys you don't even know, (Robbie) Henshaw, (James) Ryan the young second rower.

James Ryan

"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."

"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."

AUSTRALIA: I Folau; M Koroibete, S Kerevi, K Beale, D Haylett-Petty; B Foley, W Genia; S Sio, B Paenga-Amosa, S Kepu; I Rodda, A Coleman; D Pocock, M Hooper, CTimu.

Replacements: T Latu, A Alaalatoa, T Tupou, R Simmons, L Tui, P Samu, N Phipps, R Hodge.

IRELAND: R Kearney; K Earls, R Henshaw, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Carbery, C Murray; J McGrath, R Herring, John Ryan; J Ryan, I Henderson; P O’Mahony - captain, J Murphy, CJ Stander.

Replacements: C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong, Q Roux, J Conan, K Marmion, J Sexton, J Larmour

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