Ireland make 'massive statement'
REACTION: Ireland will bid for a prestigious Southern Hemisphere series win against Australia on Saturday, to underline their burgeoning status just over a year ahead of the World Cup.
The Six Nations Grand Slam champions, who trail only world title-holders New Zealand in the international standings, haven’t won a series in Australia since they swept a two-Test tour in 1979.
But in a sign of their growing clout, Joe Schmidt’s team shape as favourites for the decider in Sydney after they won last week in Melbourne, levelling the series at 1-1 and ending their 39-year away win drought against Australia.
“I guess it offers an opportunity, away from home, to play for something special; something that hasn’t been done in 39 years,” said forwards coach Simon Easterby.
“To win a Test series in the southern hemisphere is a difficult thing to do.
“We know, we found that out in South Africa when we were one-nil up and we came away with a one-two loss [in 2016]. These experiences are great for what will hopefully happen in 15-16 months’ time [at the World Cup].”
Centre Robbie Henshaw says Ireland can send out a signal to the rugby world by claiming the silverware in Australia, where they had lost 11 straight Tests until last week’s 26-21 win.
“It would be a massive statement for us, we’re currently ranked second in the world and we have to go out there and show the world why we’re second,” Henshaw said.
“We have a great chance for us to come here and create history and win a series.
“Australia is going to come out firing, there’s definitely going to be a massive reaction to how they went last week and we have to match that.”
The Wallabies were in the box seat after winning the series opener 18-9 in Brisbane, but they were dominated by the Irish in the second game before a late rally.
Australia will be hell-bent on preventing a second home series defeat to Northern Hemisphere opposition after being humbled 3-0 by Eddie Jones’s England two years ago.
“It is something I will never forget,” Wallabies’ lock Adam Coleman said.
“There was absolute disappointment that we let the series go and it was a whitewash in Australia. In our own backyard. It was really disappointing.
“We are very motivated to get the win on Saturday. It is massive for us. We have talked about how losing on home soil is just not an option.”
Schmidt has made five Irish team changes with Jack McGrath at loosehead prop, Sean Cronin the starting hooker, Jack Conan at No.8, inside-centre Bundee Aki and winger Jacob Stockdale.
Wallabies counterpart Michael Cheika beefed up his forward pack with blindside flanker Lukhan Tui and Nick Phipps coming in as scrum-half after Will Genia broke his arm in Melbourne.