Ireland bid to hit the ground running

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt expects the full complement of 32 players to train tomorrow on Queensland’s Gold Coast as the Grand Slam winners begin preparations for Saturday’s opening Test against Australia.

The Irish squad landed in Brisbane on Saturday evening having left Dublin 24 hours earlier. They travelled an hour to Surfers Paradise on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, to recover from the long-haul flight and jet lag before a first full training session tomorrow.

With captain Rory Best a late withdrawal from the touring party due to a hamstring injury, the head coach called up Munster hooker Niall Scannell as a replacement and he expects to have all his players available for training.

“They’re all in contention, there’s a couple of guys who will probably just need to make sure they get through Tuesday’s training, but we expect everybody to train,” Schmidt said. “If they can train Tuesday, then they’re available for selection. We train Tuesday, Thursday and then we travel to Brisbane and top it up with the Captain’s Run in Suncorp (Stadium).”

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika got his squad together in Brisbane on Sunday after the completion of the final round of Super Rugby games before the international break, with the Queensland Reds having hosted the Waratahs in the city on Saturday night.

It has been a difficult season for the four Australian franchises but the Melbourne Rebels’ victory over the Blues at Eden Park was a first ever win in Auckland comes two weeks after the Waratahs beat the Highlanders to break a two-year, 40-game losing streak for Aussie teams against New Zealand rivals.’ Schmidt believes the Wallabies, World Cup finalists in 2015, are greater than the sum of their parts and is mindful of their 23-18 Bledisloe Cup victory over the All Blacks on a rainy night in Brisbane last October.

Schmidt said: “I think they’re probably the only team since we beat (New Zealand) in Chicago (in November 2016) to have beaten the All Blacks. That’s a feather in their cap.

“Watching that game back a couple of times, their ability to turn defence into attack, their ability to attack through multiple phases at real tempo was hugely impressive.

“I think there’s a real excitement within the group at trying to make sure we can foot it with some of what they deliver.”


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