Dual blogged on Irish News Review
Aside from Joe Schmidt, who we now know took off for an appendectomy after the game yesterday, it was all smiles for Ireland as they thwarted Australia and secured a November clean sweep for the first time in eight years. Yes we do need to keep ourselves in check, last time this happened nothing but misery awaited in the ensuing World Cup, but for now there’s no shame in a little basking.
We have seen many shades of Ireland over this Guinness Series, including the stoic defenders against South Africa, the free running scorers against Georgia as well as some super subs and now against Australia we saw that this is now a team that, regardless of performance, will win a game. It wasn’t a complete performance, it wasn’t near perfect, but it was the result that was needed. Beating Australia for the clean sweep was crucial, so too was banishing the New Zealand game from last year. There’s a Six Nations to look ahead to of course, and that looming World Cup of course too. Regardless of how, Ireland snared a crucial win this weekend. You cannot underestimate this Australian side either, albeit they are still in a transition of sorts. This was a serious test match, unquestionably the highlight of the weekend, and Ireland are on their way to becoming a rugby super power. God forbid we should ever believe that one though.
There was reason to be concerned throughout the eighty on Saturday, mostly the second quarter of the game when Australia woke up. But the visitors never got more than 3 points ahead of Ireland, and Australia are certainly in better shape now than they were when they put Ireland away a year ago. The Joe Schmidt game plan actually seems to be relatively straightforward, rather the fact that the players are sticking to it is the crucial component. Trust is a big part of it, look how many times players stood off and allowed just a sole teammate to take on the attacking player. Sean O’Brien last November rued the final seconds of the All Blacks match, talking about how players need to trust each other and it was more than obvious he was referencing Ian Madigan breaking his stance to assist a tackle that O’Brien had under control. How refreshing it is to see us a year on, the plan is sticking, the players are responding. 17 nil should never have turned into 20 a piece at half time, but that can be fixed. The defence was a little more passive than it should have been, maybe as it wasn’t as crucial a part of the plan as against South Africa. Whatever the reason, begone bridesmaids. They’ve done it and it’s there in the books, bigger tests await.
It has been an exceptional year for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland. One loss, a Six Nations title and a November clean sweep. Caps have been dished out, ghosts have been exorcised and the Aviva has finally earned a name as a true fortress (every fixture there this year was won for the first time since it opened). Maybe we should just put an embargo on all of this World Cup talk for fear we may become favourites. The comparisons to 2007 will be rife but come one, this coaching team and squad is nothing resembling that group eight years ago. The game has moved on and so has the mindset. This is a unit that see nothing but a challenge, no history and no likelihoods. Just the challenge ahead and the chance to overcome it. Screw it, bask away guys because this has been a long time coming.
Image courtesy of breakingnews.ie