High stakes, high tempo, and an even higher intensity to what has gone before. Joe Schmidt has told his Ireland team of Grand Slam winners they will need to deliver their best performance of the season tomorrow if they are to end the campaign with a series victory over Australia.
The grand finale, at a sold-out Allianz Stadium, will undoubtedly see both sides take the physicality and intensity to a greater level again.
After naming a much-altered team for the job of securing that rare feat, a series win in the southern hemisphere, the Ireland head coach agreed it is going to take something special from his side to beat the Wallabies for a second time this month on home soil.
“That would be an unequivocal yes,” Schmidt said. “The intensity they brought in that first Test match, I think there was a shock value to it.
“Some of the impacts, you know, the likes of Adam Coleman and guys like Kurtley Beale were knocking guys back and even out wide, guys like (Marika) Koroibete and (Samu) Kerevi were very, very physical.
“And through the pack they were very physical so from that perspective I think they are probably going to have looked at their kicking game. I think they’re going to look at that endgame and see that when they really attacked at us, we were under pressure at times.
“So we expect all those aspects to be ramped up and our response to that is going to have to be ramped up or we’re going to have a very tough day.
“At the same time I thought there were things that demonstrated a bit of progress after having a three, four-month break from having some of these players available to us from the first Test to the second Test and I think it’s a massive challenge for guys who haven’t had as much continuity with the team to come straight in and deliver.”
Schmidt will start Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony at openside flanker for his 50th Test cap after shuffling his pack to deal with injuries.
The Ireland head coach revealed five changes to the starting XV he sent out at Melbourne’s AAMI Park to secure a 26-21 win. There are also four positional changes while on the replacements bench there is potential for a second Test debut on this end-of-season tour with the inclusion of uncapped Leinster fly-half Ross Byrne.
There are changes in every department of the team except the half-backs and in the second row where, respectively, Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, and Devin Toner and James Ryan, retain their combinations from that series- levelling victory.
Otherwise, loosehead prop Jack McGrath — also winning his 50th cap — and hooker Sean Cronin come into the front row and Jack Conan starts at No.8 with CJ Stander moving from the base of the scrum into O’Mahony’s customary blindside berth and his Munster skipper moving into the No 7 jersey vacated by the injured Dan Leavy.
Among the replacements there are further opportunities for hooker Niall Scannell, tighthead John Ryan, and their soon-to-be Munster team-mate Tadhg Beirne, offering cover at lock and blindside flanker in the continued absence of Iain Henderson due to a knee injury, as well as the uncapped Byrne, who is rewarded for a breakout, double-winning season with Leinster at fly-half.
Schmidt also backed his captain to handle a switch across the back-row for O’Mahony’s first start at no.7 in 50 appearances for Ireland.
“Peter did really well over the ball last week, it’s something that he’s very capable of doing. It maintains the lineout presence that he offers, the leadership that he’s brought to the team through this series. With Dan Leavy unavailable, it was probably just an opportunity for Jack Conan to get in at No.8. Once he was in at No.8 and trying to maintain continuity through the spine of the team, CJ Stander shifted to six and Peter to seven.”
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