Words by Tim Donlan
The Wallabies have made four changes to the starting line-up that suffered a gut wrenching loss to the French last week. Coming up against a red hot Ireland side, a team who cruised past the Springboks 29-15 only two weeks ago and blitzed Georgia 49-7 last week, the Wallabies will need to be at their very best to get back into the winners circle.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will be hoping the inclusion of some fresh legs will be the deciding factor in one of the toughest matches expected on this year’s Spring Tour.
It was only last week that the Irish jumped the Wallabies on the IRB World Rankings, to sit in third spot ahead of Australia in fourth. An added incentive for Cheika and his Men in Gold to secure the W this weekend.
We look at the four new players who have been included to assist the assault against the spirited Irish.
The long awaited Test debut for Brumbies’ winger Henry Speight will be fulfilled this weekend as he runs on to become Wallaby no. 888. Having spent the last four years literally ‘waiting in the wings’ due to eligibility requirements, Henry has done everything right to earn his selection into the starting side at the international level.
As one of the form wingers of the Super Rugby season, Australian rugby fans have proudly adopted the softly spoken Fijian flyer. The excitement he brings on the field coupled with his humility and dedication to charity work off the field has seen Henry develop a big following in rugby circles.
Henry will be linked with Brumbies team mates, Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani in the Wallabies starting backline, a combination that proved damaging for the Canberra-based side this year.
Henry’s match up against Irish favourite Tommy Bowe will be one of the prime battles of the game as both players are able to produce magic at any stage.
Matt comes into the side replacing good mate Christian Leali’ifano in the number 12 jersey. It will be Matt’s first game in almost two months following a series of concussions received during matches in the Rugby Championship.
The Wallabies will be looking for him to bolster their mid-field in defence with his physical approach to the game.
The combination Matt has with Brumbies team mate, Tevita Kuridrani in the centres will be crucial, especially in shutting down Irish play maker, Jonathan Sexton and experienced campaigner, Gordon D’Arcy.
Sam Carter - @Sam_Carts
Coming back into the starting line-up after missing the game against France, Sam returns to partner Rob Simmons in the second row, replacing James Horwill.
Sam has been impressive when pulling on the gold jersey, starting in every one of his nine Test caps. Arguably, this game could be Sam’s biggest to date as he matches up with Irish captain Paul O’Connell, known to be one of the toughest men in rugby.
Sam’s youth and enthusiasm around the park, combined with his speciality at set piece will be important against a physical Irish pack who will be looking to dominant their Wallaby counter parts.
Look for Sam to have high involvement with his amount of ball carries and breakdowns he attends.
Luke Jones - @luke_jones91
Michael Cheika has replaced newcomer with newcomer as Melbourne Rebel, Luke Jones comes into the starting line-up for his second Test, replacing Sean McMahon.
Luke’s last Test match was off the bench against the French back in June this year, so he will be surely jumping at the opportunity for his first start in the gold jersey.
Luke was in incredible form for the Melbourne Rising in the Buildcorp NRC ahead of his call up into the touring squad, a boost of timely confidence that should put him in good stead going into the game against the Irish.
A product of St Pius X College in Sydney, Luke was always earmarked as a potential Wallaby, most significantly by media personalities Roy and HG when he ran out the match ball before a Bledisloe Cup game in 2002.
Ireland will be out to upset the rather inexperienced Wallabies forward pack and Luke will be key in proving that youth and enthusiasm can sometimes prove better than experience.