Australia v Ireland: Head coach Joe Schmidt must get Irish side back on track

Australia v Ireland: Head coach Joe Schmidt must get Irish side back on track

Ireland struggled to cope with the aerial dominance of Australian full-back Israel Folau in Brisbane

Second Test: Australia v Ireland
Date: Saturday, 16 June Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne Kick-off: 11:00 BST
Coverage: Text commentary and match report on BBC Sport website

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt will have to solve some tactical problems facing his team as they attempt to level their three-Test series against Australia.

Ireland must win in Melbourne on Saturday if they are to set up a deciding Test in Sydney on 23 June.

The Wallabies halted the Six Nations champions’ 12-game unbeaten run by winning the key battles at the breakdown, in the air and in the scrum.

Schmidt will try to address those areas when he names his team on Thursday.

Under Schmidt, Ireland have established a style of play that relies on a strong kicking game with full-back Rob Kearney and his wingers tasked with putting pressure on their opponents in the air but the tourists were unable to deal with the aerial prowess of Australian full-back Israel Folau in Brisbane.

The breakdown has also become an area of strength for Ireland in recent seasons but the Wallabies’ back-row duo David Pocock and Michael Hooper were a constant menace in the opening Test as the visitors conceded 21 turnovers.

The Irish pack dominated the Australian lineout but struggled to translate that superiority into the scrum, with Australian winning one crucial penalty against the head on their own five metre line in the second half.

Australia flanker David Pocock argues a decision with referee Marius van der Westhuizen<!–<!–[if lte IE 8]><![endif]–>

Changes expected

“I don’t think there’s going to be much between teams at this end of the spectrum,” said Schmidt in the immediate aftermath of the loss at Suncorp Stadium.

“When you’re playing away and you’ve only had a couple of training sessions together, you’re always going to be just a little bit awry.

“There was a few times where we weren’t far away, we broke them and didn’t quite finish it off.”

Leinster flanker Dan Leavy is expected to return this week, which should improve Ireland’s ability to counteract Pocock and Hooper, while a new front-row of Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong should strengthen the scrum.

Fly-half Johnny Sexton will also regain his starting role and will be tasked with implementing Schmidt’s plan to neutralise Folau’s aerial threat.

“It’s all outcome based, isn’t it? If you go after him and you win, brilliant. If you don’t, well then you look silly,” said Sexton.

“We have a plan and we go out and do it and sometimes it comes off, and we’ve been lucky over the last couple of years that it’s come off the majority of the time, but I don’t think we implemented our plan as the coaches would have liked [in Brisbane] and that’s the disappointing thing.”

Johnny Sexton's kicking accuracy will be tested by Australia in Melbourne<!–<!–[if lte IE 8]><![endif]–>

You learn when you lose

Sexton, 32, was introduced off the bench for the final quarter in Brisbane but the British and Irish Lions star was unable to prevent Ireland’s first loss since March 2017.

“I think you learn a lot when you lose,” added Sexton.

“You try and learn through winning. I think it’s something that we did quite well through the Six Nations is that we improved even though we were winning, which is the sign of a good team, and now we’ve got to bounce back, we’ve got to show a reaction and we’ve got to perform a hell of a lot better than we did last week.

“We could go out and play absolutely brilliant this week and still not get the right result because we’re in Australia, we’re playing against a very good team with very good players and that’s the nature of going down at the end of the season and playing Tests down here but at least let’s play our best and see where that gets us.”

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