James Joyce once said that a man’s errors are his portals of discovery. That’s what the Wallabies are finding lately as they attempt to overcome a lack of depth and experience in their test squad.
They’re not alone on this journey as their Irish opponents this weekend are in a similar situation and equally adept at stumbling: to date – played three, lost three.
This is probably no surprise given that they’re without experienced internationals Fitzgerald, Flannery, O’Connell, Ferris, Heaslip, Leamy, Rory Best, Cullen, Earls and Gordon Darcy and David Wallace recently out due to injury and unavailability.
Some would say that against a Green and Gold team shy eight of their top players it might just be even-stevens?
The similarity in depth, or should I say a lack of depth, between the Irish and the Wallabies is striking.
They also have only four professional clubs to pick players from, although there is an Irish diaspora scattered throughout the Six Nations domestic competitions.
This lack of backup in certain positions is becoming critical in Irish rugby. For instance, there is a shortage of quality props (oh, welcome to the club) as all four provinces have imported front rowers on their books, mainly South African.
The last time the Irish played the Wallabies (on the Spring Tour) it was the the ‘hand of BO’D’ that dealt a heavy blow in the final minute of the match. This allowed Ireland to draw 20 all.
They’ll again be looking to Brian O’Driscoll as their trump card to cause havoc against a relative cleanskin opposing him. This is the area where the Irish are at their most experienced – Kearney, Bowe, O’Driscoll and Trimble (the best back against the All Blacks).
They have morse-coded their intention to play expansively by dropping RO’G for Jonathan Sexton, an exciting young talent and breath of fresh air.
Where the Wallabies should have a distinct advantage is at loose forward. Number eight Chris Henry has been handed his first cap in the absence of suspended team-mate Jamie Heaslip.
He will form a new look back-row alongside Niall Ronan (2 ‘A’ caps) and Shane Jennings (8 caps), who replaced the injured John Muldoon (broken arm) and David Wallace, who is absent on paternity leave.
This trio will struggle to gain the ascendancy against Elsom, Pocock and Brown in the loose and at the breakdown.
Tighthead prop Tony Buckley, who came into the 22 when John Hayes took ill prior to the All Blacks match, has now been selected ahead of him on his own merit.
Inside centre Paddy Wallace has replaced Gordon D’Arcy. Rhys Ruddock and Damien Varley are in line to make their Test debut’s after being named on the bench.
The Irish are not noted scrummagers like England; however, they did gain some sort of parity against the All Blacks with only seven men, although there were only eight actual clean scrums in the whole match.
The key will be to not go to sleep against these guys – they scored four tries against the ABs with only 14 players, albeit the game was beyond their reach at that stage.
Ireland haven’t won in Australia since Fergus Slattery’s side in 1979 and it’s hard to think that they’ll pull it off this time with such a depleted group.
However, anything’s possible against an inconsistent Wallaby team who have plenty of issues of their own to work out.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O’Driscoll (c), 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Tomas O’Leary, 8 Chris Henry, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Niall Ronan, 5 Mick O’Driscoll, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Tom Court, 18 Dan Tuohy, 19 Rhys Ruddock, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O’Gara, 22 Geordan Murphy.
Kick-off: 20.05 AEST Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand) Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Chris Pollock (New Zealand)