Irish Rugby Tour of Australia

Schmidt hails 'fantastic series' as big as Grand Slam

Irish fans celebrate at the Sydney Football Stadium. Picture: Rick Rycroft

Irish fans celebrate at the Sydney Football Stadium. Picture: Rick Rycroft

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said his team's series win in Australia was on a par with their Grand Slam success.

The Six Nations champions bounced back from an opening loss in Brisbane to level up in Melbourne and clinched the series with a 20-16 victory over the Wallabies in Sydney on Saturday in front of a record crowd which included thousands of Irish fans.

Ireland won 10 of their 11 games in the 2017/18 campaign, but they saved one of their gutsiest displays for last as Michael Cheika's men threw the kitchen sink at the tourists but came up just short.

A decision by television match official Ben Skeen late in the game went Ireland's way as he decided Jacob Stockdale had not knocked on Bernard Foley's pass, and the visiting players were able to celebrate the team's first series win over one of the southern hemisphere's big three since 1979.

Schmidt was delighted with the way his team got over the line.

"It's up there," he said of the win, in comparison to Ireland's other achievements this term.

Tadhg Furlong on one of his rampaging runs against the Wallabies. Picture: Rick Rycroft

Tadhg Furlong on one of his rampaging runs against the Wallabies. Picture: Rick Rycroft

"I think they are a super team. To be in their back yard and manage to sneak off with the Lansdowne Trophy is a little bit special for us, especially on the back of a pretty long season.

"It is a credit to players, they dug in just well enough. I'm pretty pleased there is not a game next week - that might have been a bridge too far.

"But the Wallabies are going in the other direction, they have got fuel in the tank and I think they are building.

"I'm sure 'Cheiks' is pretty happy with some of what they're doing, particularly in that second half."

Having talked to heroes of the 1979 side, Schmidt was fully aware of the historical context of his team's victory.

"It's big for us because we don't do that very often and it was 39 years ago. I did have a good chat to a couple of the guys who did it last time. Ollie Campbell is a guy I've got huge respect for," he said of the former Ireland fly-half who starred on that tour.

"We had a bit of a chat about it. He's such an enthusiast and his confidence was brimming that we could do it.

"I didn't quite share the confidence at the time because I knew how tough it was going to be and that was evident in those final minutes, not just tonight but last weekend as well.

"They were coming in waves and we managed to keep them out as well. I feel that potentially we were a little bit fortuitous and the margins are so fine. I didn't think we were far off in Brisbane either. It's been a fantastic series."

Jack Conan made the most of his opportunity after coming in for the injured Dan Leavy.

Jack Conan made the most of his opportunity after coming in for the injured Dan Leavy.

Ireland achieved their victory despite losing four players to injury after the second Test and hooker Sean Cronin on the eve of the deciding game.

And when the team bus was delayed by more than 20 minutes as a result of a changed route, it brought back memories of Ireland's defeat in Murrayfield last season when they were held up in traffic and started slowly.

He was happy with how they responded to adversity this time around.

"It's good for the team, I think there are always things that are going to come at you from different sides," Schmidt said.

"Sometimes that sort of thing happens, you have got to be able to take it in your stride.

"Most teams have a real rhythm in how they build to a game, when that gets disrupted it can be a little bit of a distraction.

"But it's the first time in the series that we've scored the first points. So, we got off to not too bad a start."

Injuries force Irish changes for Wallabies decider

Jacob Stockdale returns on the wing for Ireland.

Jacob Stockdale returns on the wing for Ireland.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has made a number of changes for Saturday's decider against Australia.

A number of injuries have forced some changes ahead of the third and final summer Test at the ANZ Stadium as the Irish look to seal a series win on the back of last weekend's 26-21 victory in Melbourne.

Garry Ringrose, Dan Leavy (sternum), Andrew Conway (hip) and Iain Henderson were all ruled out of contention due to injury as Ireland seek a first series win in the Southern Hemisphere since 1979.

Prop Cian Healy, who left the pitch with a shoulder injury early in the second-half at AAMI Park, has been named on the replacements bench.

In the front row, Jack McGrath - on his 50th cap - and Sean Cronin will partner Leinster team-mate Tadhg Furlong.

Jack Conan is set to make his first start of the series at number eight as Schmidt has gone for a new back-row configuration, moving captain Peter O'Mahony from blindside flanker to openside as he too collects his 50th cap, while CJ Stander makes the switch from number eight to blindside.

The half-back pairing of Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are joined in midfield by Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw, while Jacob Stockdale comes back into the back three alongside Keith Earls and Rob Kearney.

Leinster's uncapped Ross Byrne is named in the replacements as is Tadhg Beirne of Scarlets, who made his debut last week with John Ryan, Niall Scannell, Jordi Murphy, Kieran Marmion and Jordan Larmour completing the bench.

Ireland team: R Kearney (Leinster), K Earls (Munster), R Henshaw (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Stockdale (Ulster), J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), J McGrath (Leinster), S Cronin (Leinster), T Furlong (Leinster), D Toner (Leinster), J Ryan (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster), P O'Mahony (Captain, Munster), J Conan (Leinster).

Replacements: N Scannell (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), J Ryan (Munster), T Beirne (Scarlets), Jordi Murphy (Leinster), K Marmion (Connacht), R Byrne (Leinster), J Larmour (Leinster).

Inspiring Irish win sets up mouth-watering Sydney decider

Jordan Larmour on the burst against the Wallabies in Melbourne. Picture: Andy Brownbill

Jordan Larmour on the burst against the Wallabies in Melbourne. Picture: Andy Brownbill

Ireland's historic three-match series will come down to a winner-takes-all finale in Sydney next Saturday after the tourists secured a first away win in Australia in exactly 39 years.

With big hitters like Johnny Sexton and Tadhg Furlong back in the starting XV following the 18-9 first Test reversal, Joe Schmidt's Six Nations champions produced some of their best rugby of the season as they over-powered the Wallabies at the breakdown, where captain Peter O'Mahony was immense.

Both sides will count the cost of this bruising encounter in the coming days after a host of players were forced off injured, but Ireland have the wind in their sails after tries from Andrew Conway and Furlong and a 16-point haul from Sexton saw them home 26-21 in front of an attendance of 29,018.

Prop Cian Healy could find himself in disciplinary trouble after Australia coach Michael Cheika questioned his role in scrum-half Will Genia's departure.

The Wallaby number nine's series is over after he broke his arm in a 25th-minute incident involving the Leinster star, who himself departed a physical contest early with a shoulder injury early in the second-half.

Genia will undergo surgery on the injury but should be fit for the Rugby Championship.

Andrew Conway scores Ireland's first try in Melbourne. Picture: Andy Brownbill

Andrew Conway scores Ireland's first try in Melbourne. Picture: Andy Brownbill

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was upbeat about the prospects of Andrew Conway (hip), Dan Leavy (sternum) and Healy's capacity to recover in time for the final Test.

Although Australia were upset with the circumstances surrounding Genia's injury, they do not intend to report the incident to the authorities.

However, citing commissioner Mike O'Leary may choose to review Healy's actions.

Ireland's win was their first over Australia away from home since 1979, but Schmidt will not celebrate until his team finish the job next week.

"All we did was balance the series," he said.

"I think it all depends on what we can deliver next week and I know the Wallabies will be thinking the same thing.

"They're a really good side and if they do get a bit more access I know as you saw toward the end we were chasing shadows.

"So, nothing feels monumental when it's one-all. It feels like there's still a huge amount to play for.

Jams Ryan makes a break during the second test match. Picture: Andy Brownbill

Jams Ryan makes a break during the second test match. Picture: Andy Brownbill

"We'll glue ourselves back together, get the trip out of the way to Sydney tomorrow and Monday, have a bit of a look back at the game and then get back out on the training pitch in North Sydney Oval and try to work our way through things.

"There's still a few things that we know we need to do better because we know they're going to keep getting better."

Although a series win is the primary goal, the Ireland head coach is intent on continuing his rotation policy with next year's World Cup in mind after handing a Test debut to Scarlets second-row Tadhg Beirne.

"We definitely want to win the series, but we've probably got 10 games now between this tour and when we go into our warm-up to the World Cup," he said.

"The thing that we want to believe about our squad is that there's less and less between players, and so selection is a contest every time."

 

Schmidt makes eight changes in bid to rescue series

Johnny Sexton will start at No 10 in a new-look Irish side for second test. 

Johnny Sexton will start at No 10 in a new-look Irish side for second test. 

Johnny Sexton has returned to Ireland's starting line-up after Joe Schmidt overhauled his team in a bid to deliver a rare victory against the Wallabies in Australia.

Many expat fans who emigrated in the 1980s have yet to see Ireland win on Australian soil.

Since 1987, there have been eleven tests and eleven wins for the men in gold.

How those long-suffering fans would love to see Joe Schmidt's star-studded side get one over their talented hosts.

Sexton was a key component in Ireland's Grand Slam success earlier this year but was surprisingly benched for the first Test in Brisbane.

Beaten 18-9 last weekend, Ireland must win in Melbourne on Saturday to keep their three-match series victory hopes alive.

In an effort to make that happen Schmidt has made eight alterations to his team, which Ireland announced on Thursday. Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, meanwhile, will field an unchanged line-up.

Returning to Ireland's starting XV alongside fly-half Sexton are Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy, while Joey Carbery drops to the sidelines and there's no place for try-scoring machine Jacob Stockdale.

Schmidt had justified keeping Sexton on the bench in the first Test because he wanted to give Carbery the best opportunity to shine on the international stage.

Niall Scannell completes the new-look front row alongside Furlong and Healy, while Brisbane starter James Ryan is joined in the second row by Devin Toner.

Absent from the team sheet in Queensland, flanker Dan Leavy also returns to the starting line-up in the back row with captain Peter O'Mahony, with CJ Stander unchanged at number eight.

After starting in Brisbane, Conor Murray resumes scrum-half duties, while Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose are brought in as centres.

Andrew Conway takes up Keith Earls's position at 14, while Earls is moved to 11, and first Test starter Rob Kearney lines up at full-back.

Munster's Tadhg Beirne is set for his first cap after being named among the reserves alongside Rob Herring, Jack McGrath, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Jordan Larmour and Carbery.

Ireland team: Kearney (Leinster), Conway (Munster), Ringrose (Leinster), Henshaw (Leinster), Earls (Munster), Sexton (Leinster), Murray (Munster); Healy (Leinster), Scannell (Munster), Furlong (Leinster), Ryan (Leinster), Toner (Leinster), O'Mahony (Munster), Leavy (Leinster), Stander (Munster).

Replacements: Herring (Ulster), McGrath (Leinster), Porter (Leinster), Beirne (Scarlets), Murphy (Leinster), Cooney (Ulster), Carbery (Leinster), Larmour (Leinster).

Irish will bounce back, says frustrated hooker

Robbie Henshaw in action for Ireland against the Wallabies in Brisbane. Picture: Tertius Pickard

Robbie Henshaw in action for Ireland against the Wallabies in Brisbane. Picture: Tertius Pickard

Ireland hooker Rob Herring insists his side will not lose faith after suffering their first defeat in 13 Test matches, but admits they need to do better at taking their opportunities.

Joe Schmidt's side now face an uphill battle to rescue the three-game series as they move to Melbourne ahead of the second Test.

The Grand Slam winners were unable to muster a try during a bruising encounter at Suncorp Stadium and Herring believes they left plenty of points behind.

Ireland were twice denied by the television match official, while Joey Carbery missed a second-half penalty and their handling let them down under pressure at key moments.

A frustrated Herring said he is confident the Six Nations champions can turn things around as they pick apart their performance in the coming days.

"There was a fair bit of disappointment in the changing room, Joe came in and said we have some good things to work on now," the South African-born Ulster player said.

"That's the beauty of it, it's a three-Test series and we've just got to get better now.

"We've got to improve on what we let ourselves down on in this game and move on.

"We need to convert pressure into points, we had a couple of good opportunities in their 22 and just coughed the ball up for one reason or another.

"I think that's the key thing for us, converting those opportunities.

"We have to be confident, we've been building for a long time."

Michael Cheika's Australia were the more clinical team in attack, but it was their defensive effort and brutish physicality that drew most comment from the Irish camp after the game.

John Ryan in action at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. Picture: Tertius Pickard

John Ryan in action at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. Picture: Tertius Pickard

"Defensively, they put us under a lot of pressure," Herring said.

"They came out firing with a good defensive line, some good hits and I guess we just coughed up the ball a few times which was what they were trying to do with that defensive pressure.

"We struggled to get our way into the game from there, we did hang on for a bit but I felt like Australia were always in the ascendancy.

"We knew coming into the game that any sort of loose ball, they thrive on that.

"They've very dangerous players in the backs, it showed. They took their opportunities well.

"They took their opportunities better than we did."

After playing a leading role in establishing the 1-0 lead in the series, Wallaby centre Kurtley Beale is expecting an Irish backlash in Melbourne.

"The Irish will be coming back hungry, keen to get the result. We understand the job's not over yet," he said.

"It's time to recover and make sure we're in the best position to get the win next week."

"The series isn't over yet, the group's fully aware of that.

"Will Genia got us together after the game and made sure that we enjoyed the win, but the focus quickly switched to Melbourne next week."

Joey Carbery to start at out-half for first test

Joey Carbery will start at No 10 in the first test against the Wallabies on Saturday.

Joey Carbery will start at No 10 in the first test against the Wallabies on Saturday.

Grand slam stars Johnny Sexton and Tadhg Furlong have been named on the bench for the first test against Australia on Saturday.

Joe Schmidt has handed new Munster signing Joey Carbery his biggest opportunity to date, naming him as the starting No 10 in a new-look Irish team that does not include Dan Leavy, Devin Toner or Garry Ringrose.

In the absence through injury of Rory Best, Peter O’Mahony fills in as captain and is joined in the backrow by Jordi Murphy at openside and CJ Stander at No.8.  James Ryan and Iain Henderson fill the lock positions with Jack McGrath, Rob Herring and John Ryan making up the front row.

Rob Kearney is named at fullback and is joined in the outfield by Jacob Stockdale and Keith Earls.  Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw are reunited in midfield with Conor Murray at halfback.

The replacements named are Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Quinn Roux, Jack Conan, Kieran Marmion, Johnny Sexton and Jordan Larmour.

RELAND squad for 1st Test v Australia – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

BACKS: 15. Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster) 83 caps, 14. Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 67 caps, 13. Robbie Henshaw(Buccaneers/Leinster) 33 caps, 12. Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 7 caps, 11. Jacob Stockdale (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 9 caps, 10. Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Leinster) 10 caps, 9. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 64 caps

FORWARDS: 1. Jack McGrath (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 47 caps, 2. Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 3 caps, 3. John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 13 caps, 4. Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 38 caps, 5. James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 8 caps, 5. Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 38 caps, 6. Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 47 caps capt, 7. Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster) 20 caps, 8. CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 23 caps.

Replacements: 16. Sean Cronin (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 61 caps, 17. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 78 caps, 18. Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 23 caps, 19. Quinn Roux (Galwegians/Connacht) 5 caps, 20. Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster) 7 caps, 21. Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht) 21 caps, 22. Johnny Sexton (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 73 caps, 23. Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 3 caps.

Best out, injury robs Ireland of inspirational skipper

Irish skipper Rory Best has not travelled to Australia with the Irish squad.

Irish skipper Rory Best has not travelled to Australia with the Irish squad.

The Irish squad have arrived in Queensland ahead of their three-test tour against Australia but captain Rory Best was not among the players.

A hamstring injury has sidelined the Ulster-man and Munster's Niall Scannell will replace the British and Irish Lions hooker in Ireland's squad.

Head coach Joe Schmidt explained that vice captains Johnny Sexton and Peter O'Mahony could share the captaincy for June's three-Test series against the Wallabies.

Before boarding the plane to Australia, boss Schmidt explained how his squad may handle the 35-year-old's absence.

"Rory's not going to tour," said Schmidt.

"He had a hamstring issue that kept him out of the game against Ospreys and we felt he was really going in the right direction and he would be ready for game one, definitely for game two. But he's just not quite where we need him to be.

"Because a number of these things have just become apparent, we've two vice captains in Peter O'Mahony and Johnny Sexton and a strong leadership group.

"It will depend a bit on selection and what we feel we need at any given time.

"It could be that Pete and Johnny take the team on and share the load."

Best picked up his hamstring concern in the build-up to Ulster's Champions Cup play-off with Ospreys, missing the Ravenhill province's 35-17 win on May 20.

Now the evergreen front-rower has failed to recover in time for Ireland's tour, leaving Leinster's Sean Cronin heading the queue to to start the first Test, in Brisbane next weekend.

Rob Herring is the other hooker in Ireland's touring party, with Schmidt now to decide who will skipper the team.

Schmidt's initial installation of Best as captain for the summer tour had pushed the Ulster star one step closer towards skippering Ireland at the 2019 World Cup.

Finegan's awake to hot Irish form

Owen Finegan in action against Ireland back in 1999.

Owen Finegan in action against Ireland back in 1999.

Owen Finegan is Irish. He looks Irish. His parents are both Irish. All his siblings were born in Ireland. He spent many happy times in Ireland. And yet, like former Wallaby skipper Stephen Moore, when it came to representative rugby it was his Australian passport and not his Irish one that that won out.

Finegan, now 46, played 56 times for the Wallabies and has no complaints about the choice he made. After all, he won a World Cup winners medal in 1999, scoring a try in the final.  

But he treasures his Irish heritage, lovingly handed down to him by his late Meath-born dad Pat and mum Josephine. 

When he thinks about Irish rugby now, Finegan says it’s the late Anthony Foley who springs to mind. 

“It’s a fond memory I have got of him and my battles with the Irish team,” Finegan tells The Irish Echo

The former back-rower dislocated his shoulder tussling with the Irish flanker who passed away in 2016 while he was Munster head coach.

The late Anthony Foley was a great adversary, Owen Finegan recalls.

The late Anthony Foley was a great adversary, Owen Finegan recalls.

“I have great memories of playing at Lansdowne Road. It was a great stadium with great history. I remember running out to the ground announcer welcoming, “the Wallabies and Owen Finegan and his 40-plus relatives at the game today”. 

“It was great to play in Ireland in front of my relatives. My mum and dad loved coming back over, coming back over for a month and making a good trip out of it. The only downside was dislocating my shoulder in one of those matches and having to have shoulder reconstruction at the end of it. That’s one of my not so fond memories but it was wonderful,” he said.

Firm Irish friendships were forged over the years including with the much-loved Foley.

“I saw he passed and the outpouring from the international rugby community was a wonderful thing. It was shattering. 

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen a bit of that with Jonah Lomu, Jerry Collins, a few of those I kind of ducked around were only in their early 40’s, if that, but are not with us anymore.

“He was a great Irishman. It’s not often you meet blokes like that and if I was going to dislocate my shoulder, who better for it to be against than tackling Anthony?”

Finegan also played alongside some of Ireland’s biggest stars while playing with Leinster under current Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and in the Barbarians jersey.

“I also got an opportunity to play in some Barbarian teams with Gordon D’Arcy, Brian O’Dricoll and some other Irish players, it was a wonderful opportunity to do that.”

Michael Cheika knows the Irish game well after coaching Leinster to European success in 2009.

Michael Cheika knows the Irish game well after coaching Leinster to European success in 2009.

Finnegan, named in the first Wallabies team of the professional era in 2005, says it will be a tough ask for the Aussies to defeat the all-conquering Irish.

“They’re in the top three in world rugby. They beat New Zealand and England to break their record run of wins. You look at a team like that that have been consistent in winning almost 20 games.

“Ireland played extremely well in the Six Nations, very tough. Australia struggled in a three-Test series against England two years ago. Last year Scotland came down and beat us, so Ireland coming out as Six Nations champions and Grand Slam winners, that’s gonna be a tough ask.”

Finegan started at Randwick Rugby Club before being a key part of Canberra’s Brumbies from their very inception in 1996. He helped them to two titles, including captaining them to their 2004 triumph. 

He played 90 Super 12 matches and a record 31 tries for a forward. It was in 2005 that Finegan left for Newcastle Falcons. He would spend one year in England’s North East before moving to Leinster.

“I had a year at Leinster and Michael Cheika was there with me so it’s interesting. A lot of the boys, well they were young boys when I was playing: Jonathan Sexton, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Devin Toner and all those blokes were starting off at Leinster as young pups when I was finishing off so it’s been good to follow their movements and growth into Irish rugby players. 

“O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, Kearney, Shane Horgan, Hickie were playing so a lot of those young players were just raising their heads, coming to the fore as well so that was a good time. They were transitioning out, those older players, so the younger players were getting a bit of an opportunity.”

Finnegan is now head coach of Randwick Rugby, the club Cheika left to join Leinster where he enjoyed success. 

“He made a really good job and transformed Leinster from a team that were mildly competitive into European champions,” Finegan said. 

“To end my rugby career and have stints at Newcastle, Leicester and Dublin, the Leinster experience particularly, coming from a large Irish family: My mother had 14 brothers and sisters, my dad had 13 brothers and sisters and the majority are still in Ireland. It was a wonderful opportunity.”

Cheika took the Wallabies to the World Cup final in 2015 but recent years have been disappointing for the Wallabies, losing a home test series to England and by a record margin to Scotland last year.

“He did a great job initially, taking on the World Cup in 2015 with a very short turnaround and they made the final against the All Blacks. 

“They probably haven’t had that consistency since. He’s been really good and most of the clubs he’s been to have been successful. He was successful over at Leinster and at the Waratahs and probably hasn’t had the same consistency with the Wallabies. You want them to consistently perform so even if they’re losing games, they’re still very competitive and just the best can beat them.”

Schmidt selects all-star cast for Aussie tour

Jonathan Sexton will return to Australia next month.

Jonathan Sexton will return to Australia next month.

Concerns that Ireland's all conquering Grand Slam stars might be rested for the forthcoming tour of Australia have been put to rest.

Coach Joe Schmidt has named the best possible squad for the historic three-test tour including Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Tadhg Furlong, Jacob Stockdale and Robbie Henshaw.

Scarlets' Munster-bound lock Tadhg Beirne is in line for his Ireland debut after being selected in the squad.

Leinster fly-half Ross Byrne is the only other uncapped player in head coach Joe Schmidt's 32-man squad to face the Wallabies in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

Second row Beirne will link up with the Ireland squad after facing Leinster in Scarlets colours in Saturday's Guinness PRO14 final.

British and Irish Lions and Ulster hooker Rory Best has retained the captaincy, moving the 35-year-old a step closer to retaining that leadership role for the 2019 World Cup.

"This has probably been the most difficult selection process for the coaching group to date," Schmidt said.

"We sat down on Monday morning to review the last pieces of footage and to discuss the balance and combinations that we felt we might need in Australia.

"At midday today (Wednesday) we made the final decisions which included a number of very tough calls, and some players are incredibly unlucky to miss out on selection.

Conor Murray is now widely considered to be the world's top scrum half.

Conor Murray is now widely considered to be the world's top scrum half.

"Over the past couple of months the national coaches have spent time in the provinces and been in communication with the provincial coaches who have done a super job in managing the players across the season.

"The coaching group are excited by the challenge that this three-Test tour will present and, from talking to the players, we get a sense that they too are excited about going on tour and testing themselves against one of the best sides in the world in their own backyard."

Ireland will face Michael Cheika's Wallabies in Brisbane for the first Test on Saturday, June 9, with clashes in Melbourne and Sydney following on successive Saturdays.

Ireland squad for summer tour to Australia:

Forwards: R Best (Ulster, capt), T Beirne (Scarlets), J Conan, S Cronin, T Furlong, C Healy (all Leinster), I Henderson, R Herring (both Ulster), D Leavy, J McGrath J Murphy (all Leinster), P O'Mahony (Munster), A Porter (Leinster), Q Roux (Connacht), James Ryan (Leinster), John Ryan, CJ Stander (both Munster), D Toner (Leinster).

Backs: B Aki (Connacht), R Byrne, J Carbery (both Leinster), A Conway (Munster), J Cooney (Ulster), K Earls (Munster), R Henshaw, R Kearney, J Larmour (all Leinster), K Marmion (Connacht), C Murray (Munster), G Ringrose, J Sexton (both Leinster), J Stockdale (Ulster).

Next stop Australia for Grand Slam heroes

Conor Murray celebrates Ireland's historic Grand Slam at Twickenham.

Conor Murray celebrates Ireland's historic Grand Slam at Twickenham.

The next challenge facing Ireland's Grand Slam heroes will be in Australia as they take on the Wallabies in a mouth-watering three-test series.

Joe Schmidt's team have soared to number two in the world rankings, after clocking up 12 consecutive victories. They have not tasted defeat in more than a year.

But Ireland's record in Australia is poor and they will have to reverse a losing trend to continue their unbeaten run.

The Wallabies have hosted Ireland ten times since 1987, winning all ten tests.

To find the last Irish victory on Australian soil, you need to go back to 1979 when Olly Campbell kicked Ireland to victory in a tryless encounter at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

That win, and a 27-12 victory a week earlier in Brisbane, gave the tourists a clean sweep.

Can Irish head coach Joe Schmidt conjure a rare win on Australian soil.

Can Irish head coach Joe Schmidt conjure a rare win on Australian soil.

Ireland famously fell one-point short against the Wallabies in the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Melbourne but that's as close as the Irish have come to a win on Australian soil over the past 30 years. 

The Irish have, however, won three out of four of the most recent clashes including a famous win over the Wallabies at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2011.

Australia has struggled against northern hemisphere opposition in recent years, losing all three tests against England in 2016 and going down to Scotland last year.

Irish rugby fans in Australian will now be hoping that the Irish arrive with all their Grand Slam stars.

To purchase tickets for the Ireland v Australia tests, click here.

 

Ireland will tour Oz as Six Nations champs

Irish players congratulate Sean Cronin after his try against Scotland.

Irish players congratulate Sean Cronin after his try against Scotland.

Ireland will arrive in Australia in June as Six Nations champions after defeating Scotland in Dublin on Saturday.

England's loss to France in Paris means that Ireland have won the 2018 title with a game to spare. They also have the opportunity to claim a rare Grand Slam if they can defeat England on St Patrick's Day in Twickenham.

Ireland racked up a 28-8 bonus-point win over Scotland in Dublin to move within just one victory of their first Six Nations clean sweep since 2009.

Head coach Schmidt's side must end England's unbeaten Twickenham record under boss Eddie Jones, who took the helm in December 2015.

Ireland are unbeaten at home in the Six Nations since 2013, leading Schmidt to insist he knows full well the pressure England face defending home-turf honour.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt after the win over Scotland.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt after the win over Scotland.

"I guess history doesn't protect you from the future; we knew that today," said Schmidt.

"We hadn't lost in five years in the Six Nations here in Dublin. It didn't protect us, we had to go out and win again today. That's all part of the challenge.

"We need to go to Twickenham and try to test that record out, I guess.

"But it won't be uppermost in our thinking because you can be distracted looking back when you need to be moving forward.

"We didn't feel our five-year run in the Six Nations here protected us.

"And I'm sure Eddie Jones and the boys will be fully focused on winning the game next week."

Jacob Stockdale became the first Irishman to claim six tries in a single Five or Six Nations competition with a brace against the Scots.

Conor Murray and Sean Cronin sealed Ireland's third bonus-point win in their four clashes to date, with the Grand Slam now on the line at Twickenham.

Man-of-the-match Rob Kearney on the burst against Scotland.

Man-of-the-match Rob Kearney on the burst against Scotland.

Ireland registered a national record 11th consecutive win too, in another boost for former Leinster boss Schmidt's hugely impressive tenure.

Asked how he would feel to guide Ireland to a Grand Slam to equal the exploits of the 1948 and 2009 vintage, Schmidt said: "I think it would give me incredible satisfaction.

"I work with these young men who go out and do an incredibly difficult job and work very hard. It would give me incredible satisfaction to see that rewarded.

"In the end the satisfaction is something that really is placed around the effort that they make."

Only Best and Rob Kearney remain in Ireland's squad from those that claimed the Grand Slam in 2009.

Current skipper Best admitted Ireland will now need to summon their best rugby yet in this year's tournament to topple England and complete the clean sweep.

"We're going to have to save the best for last, and that's what it's going to take to win everything next week," said Best.

"It's only a big game now because of what we've done previously. So we have to stick to those processes.

"It would be special for every member of the squad. It is a squad thing.

"There will be moments next week when we need to dig deep, and we've a lot of big leaders in that squad.

"At times when we were under pressure today and they were trying to play chaotic rugby, we were able to get a breath back and get control through the spine of our team.

"Everyone knows the size of the challenge. They haven't lost at Twickenham under Eddie Jones.

"It is about as much as possible trying to treat it like another game. We know what works for us."

Scotland captain John Barclay admitted his side botched a hatful of scoring chances, which proved definitive on the day.

"I don't want to say you get what you deserve in rugby; the scoreline didn't reflect the chances in the game," said Barclay.

"But they took all their chances whereas we probably had four two-on-one chances and we took none of them. That's the difference today."