By Simon Lewis in Brisbane
Ireland boss Joe Schmidt could spring some selection surprises for Saturday's first Test against Australia with Joey Carbery set to start at fly-half ahead of Johnny Sexton.
Schmidt is set to reveal his matchday squad for the series opener at 7am Irish time Thursday following the Grand Slam-winning squad’s arrival in Brisbane after a three-day camp on Queensland's Gold Coast.
Sexton could be one of a number of Leinster players who may see a lighter workload from the bench following their Champions Cup and PRO14 double-winning campaign if Schmidt opts to hand some vital top-tier experience to their understudies or positional rivals, 15 months out from the World Cup in Japan.
If that is the case then 22-year-old Carbery could be handed his third Test start in an 11th appearance since an Ireland debut off the bench in the historic first win over New Zealand in November 2016.
It could also represent a possible first viewing of a half-back partnership with Conor Murray, just nine days after Carbery announced he was leaving Leinster and joining Munster for next season in a bid to get more game time at number 10.
With Sexton set to start from the bench, that opens the door for fellow vice-captain Peter O’Mahony to captain Ireland in the absence of injured skipper Rory Best.
Best was forced to withdraw from the tour on the eve of departure after failing to recover quickly enough from a hamstring injury with Schmidt hinting that he may rotate the captaincy between his vice captains over the three games with the 2015 World Cup finalists, currently ranked fourth in the world.
Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika is scheduled to show his hand for the series opener at Suncorp Stadium two hours before his Irish counterpart at 5am Irish time as Australia prepare to return to the venue where they beat the All Blacks last October.