5 Things We Learned From Ireland’s Summer Series Win Over Australia
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Ireland capped off a truly incredible season on Saturday, securing a series win over the Wallabies at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney.
Joe Schmidt’s men lost just one game all season – the first Test against Australia, having gone unbeaten throughout the November Internationals, as well as the Six Nations on the way to a Grand Slam.
Irish Rugby really couldn’t be in a better place right now, and will the Rugby World Cup just over 12 months away – Schmidt’s men can confidently say they are real contenders for the All Blacks’ title.
Here are five things we learned from the Australia series.
O’Mahony & Sexton are captain material.
Rory Best missed this month’s tour through injury, but he can take comfort in the fact that Ireland were in safe hands. The Ulsterman turns 36 in August, and will be 37 by the time the Rugby World Cup comes round. Whether he steps down as captain before or after Japan 2-19 – Ireland has two readymade replacements in Peter O’Mahony and Johnny Sexton.
Ringrose is Irelands’ first choice 13.
The young Leinster star only played the 2nd Test, but he made all the difference. Ireland has three very good centres in him, Henshaw and Aki, but unfortunately there’s only two slots available. The general consensus seems to be a Henshaw/Ringrose combination going forward, but personally – I’d like to see Aki in there. Regardless it’s Ringrose + an other.
Fifteen is Ireland’s weakest position.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – Rob Kearney is too hot and cold if Ireland have serious World Cup aspirations. He offered very little in attack, and slipped off a number of tackles throughout the tour, some of them being very costly. Yet he started all three Tests. Guys like Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour need more time in the fifteen slot at Test level. Even if you disagree with my evaluation of Kearney – what if he’s injured come Japan 2019? He hasn’t got the best of records in fairness, it could easily happen.
Joe Schmidt has a second-row conundrum.
Similar to the Ringrose midfield situation – we know who has to be there, but we don’t know who should partner him. James Ryan is now Ireland’s number one second-row, that cannot be argued. But who is his long-term partner? Henderson looked good in the first Test, while Toner helped turn the tide in the second. And then there’s Tadhg Beirne. If he finds his Scarlets forms once he’s settled, could he be the man to partner Ryan? It’s a nice headache for Joe Schmidt to have, when you consider how light Ireland were in the engine room department this time last year.
Ireland are the real deal.
Straight off the back of a gruelling season, which saw Ireland go unbeaten, as well as Munster reach the last four of the PRO14 and Champions Cup and Leinster go on to win both competitions – Ireland did the almost impossible. Up against a relatively fresh Australia squad, just starting their season, Ireland secured a series win in their backyard. And they did it with plenty of bodies missing. It’s an incredible feat, and rubber stamps Ireland’s position as the second best team in the world right now, and genuine Rugby World Cup contenders.