Ireland v Australia
Saturday: Aviva Stadium, 4.30pm
Conor Murray is refusing to buy into the good news story that is Irish rugby right now, especially with Australia coming to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, declaring: “We’re not falling in love with ourselves.”
Third in the world rankings thanks to wins over South Africa and Georgia and a first November clean sweep since 2006 in the offing this weekend if they get past the Wallabies, it might be easy to assume Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad are pretty content right now. Yet there is enough evidence being presented by the head coach and his assistants to the players to keep their feet firmly on the ground as they prepare for the final game of the 2014 Guinness Series.
Whatever the kudos Ireland gained for defeating the number-two ranked Springboks 29-15 a fortnight ago, scrum-half Murray and his team-mates have been keen to point out it was a less than perfect outing.
And while the Australians are under new management with Michael Cheika taking over in the wake of Ewen McKenzie’s resignation last month, their four-try dismissal of the Irish 12 months ago is still fresh enough in the memory for Schmidt’s performance-driven squad not to believe the hype heading into this weekend’s game.
“It’s a good place to be, but that’s all happened and the squad is purely focused on Australia and playing really well,” Murray said yesterday, after training at Ireland’s Carton House training base.
“Looking at what we did last year, you know, we didn’t show up really, we came off second best in a lot of areas and we do have a lot of things to work on.
“We played well against South Africa, we executed the game plan quite well, but this will be completely different game I’d imagine, it’ll be a challenge but it’s one we’re looking forward to. We’re in a good space as a squad, we’re a confident squad but we know if we’re in any way complacent, we saw what happens in how we performed against Australia last year.
“It’s purely about this week, it’s the good thing about the squad that we’re fully focused on the job. We’re not falling in love with ourselves, by any means.
“We know when we don’t show up and we lose out on those little margins, we have seen what Australia do, we were well beaten last year.
“We know for us to play well and get results, we have to be really sharp and that’s how it has been in training.”
Much has been made of Ireland’s poor showing in the scrum and lineout against the abrasive Springboks but the criticisms from Schmidt even stretched to reports of post-match displeasure with Tommy Bowe’s game-clinching second-half try and specifically Murray’s crossfield kick to his wing that bounced kindly for the Ulster man but should have gone to his hands.
Murray confirmed he’d copped some flak from the head coach, adding: “Yeah, ideally it would have but the space was there and it worked out. In fairness, I should have got it into his hands, but...
“It was just a kind of joke, a light moment, but they’re the kind of standards we’re trying to set here. With Tommy chasing it so well, it made up for it not going into his hands but that’s the atmosphere in camp here, we’re always trying to get better.
“I knew when I kicked the kick it should have gone into his hands straight away, but Tommy chased it and made it work, when you have great wingers and full-backs chasing, it can make your kick look a bit better than it was.”
The view from inside and outside the Ireland camp is that Schmidt’s team will not only have to be spot on in all aspects of their game if they are beat the Wallabies, they will also have to adopt a new game plan to the one which undid the Boks.
“They’re a completely different team,” Murray said, “the South Africans were really physical but the Aussies all seem to be really good footballers and have really high skill levels.
“If the game breaks up in any way, they can be quite dangerous, all of their footballers can throw good passes and they’re really smart, they tip it on into space and they’re a different type of team. It will be a different tactical battle.”
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