Ireland v Australia: David Corkery worries the Irish rugby team might peak too soon

Andy Farrell's side are in fine form as they host Australia but they'll be judged on their World Cup exploits
Ireland v Australia: David Corkery worries the Irish rugby team might peak too soon

The Ireland team to face Australia in the Bank of Ireland Nations Series. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

TIMING is everything when it comes to reaching the Everest of your chosen sport.

Peak too early and you’ll have a massive amount of expectation to deal with, whereas entering the arena undercooked will have you packing your bags and heading for home, weeks before the final is even played.

Currently and deservingly so, Ireland finds themselves occupying the top-spot on World Rugby’s table of merit, but if you had one euro left in your pocket, and you had to place it on a team to win next year’s World Cup, where would you put it?

Remember this is your last Euro and you go hungry if you get your selection wrong!

History tells us that Ireland have never managed to make it beyond the quarter-finals of any World Cup they competed in.

Irish talisman Johnny Sexton. Picture: INPHO/Tom Maher
Irish talisman Johnny Sexton. Picture: INPHO/Tom Maher

It also prompts us that shortly before the 2019 World Cup we were also ranked number one, and we all know where that campaign ended up.

No matter how you try to dress it up, Ireland without its key playmakers and natural leaders are a good bit off the depth they require in order to win a World Cup, and the games against a strong New Zealand XV two weeks ago and Fiji last week validated this.

It just seems daft considering our track record in the World Cup, people are confident that come September 28, 2023, Ireland’s captain will be stepping forward to be presented with the William Webb Ellis trophy.

Underneath the playing capabilities that Johnny Sexton, Peter O’Mahony, Jamison Gibson-Park, Gary Ringrose, Tadgh Beirne, Josh Van Der Flier and Tadgh Furlong mask their fellow players inadequacies with, there lies an inexperienced core of test match players who in my opinion are not capable of dealing with pressure.

The kind of pressure that coincides with needing to win seven immensely testing games of topflight rugby over a seven-week period.

LUCKY SEVEN

Seven is the number of games that any side must play, in order to be crowned champions of the world. Four pool games, a quarter-final, a semi-final, and a final.

Every time Ireland plays in the international test arena, be it in the Six Nations, an end-of-season tour or in one of these Autumn internationals, there is an overwhelming emphasis placed on them winning every game at all costs, and little consideration is given to what lies around the corner.

You may argue that international rugby is all about winning, but surely there must be an 18- to 24-month period in the buildup to the World Cup that an attitude of suffering short-term loss for long-term gain needs to be adopted.

Unless players like Rob Herring, Jimmy O’Brien, Nick Timoney, Kieran Treadwell, Craig Casey, Tom O’Toole, Cian Prendergast, Joey Carbery and Jack Crowley to name but a few, are given the nod to start in games against the big boys, like South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, France or England, they will never improve, and we will never know if they can play with the weight of a nation sitting on their shoulders.

Tomorrow, Andy Farrell, his fellow coaches and players play their final game of this year’s Autumn Nations Series.

An uncompromising win against South Africa and a less than convincing victory over Fiji leaves them with a tricky 80 minutes against an Australian side who don’t really have a game plan that can be analysed.

Since arriving in Europe, the Wallabies have beaten Scotland by one point (15-16) lost to France 30-29 and lost to Italy by, yes you guessed it, one point (28-27). If this tells you anything about the Aussies, it tells you they are erratic and if Ireland go into this game with any level of disrespect, they will end this series with a loss.

After last week’s embarrassing defeat to Italy, Australia’s coach Dave Rennie has come under some serious fire from home, with many former players suggesting his position should be questioned ahead of next year’s showpiece event in France. 

However, I can categorically pledge to you that the side that lost last week will bear very little resemblance to the one that will run out in the Aviva tomorrow night at 8pm.

Everyone in the Wallaby squad will have felt the pain of losing to the Italians and when you have players like Michael Hooper, Bernard Foley and James Slipper coming back into your side, you just know that Farrell will need to have his players prepped for all eventualities.

Cork's Peter O’Mahony. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Cork's Peter O’Mahony. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Just like last week and the week before, discipline will have a big say in who wins this test and with Hooper declared as the undisputed king of the breakdown, Ireland’s backrow will need to arrive at every tackle and ruck long before the Australian captain.

It would be super if Ireland could win this game and bring momentum with them into the Six Nations albeit, there is also much to be gained in defeat, as it keeps your feet firmly planted on the ground and the brain thinking of new formulas and strategies.

On this occasion, my euro will be with Ireland to finish in style.

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