Sport360 - 6/14/2018 4:03:33 PM - GMT (+2 )
Ireland will be looking to avenge their first Test defeat when they face the Wallabies for the second of their three match series on Saturday (14:00 UAE time).
Here, we take a look at three key battles which could decide the outcome of the match in Melbourne.
DAVID POCOCK V DAN LEAVY
The Leinster man wasn’t included in the matchday squad for the first Test due to injury, but looks primed to contain the dominance of Pocock in Melbourne.
The 24-year-old has been instrumental this season for Leinster and Ireland with his strong offloading, solid carrying and smoking footwork all serious threats.
A high class operator at the breakdown, Leavy will need to cut down the impact of Pocock – with the Wallabies star having a field day against the Irish last Saturday.
The Waratahs man was making his first appearance last week since December 2016 and was a nuisance at the breakdown.
He made seven carries for 10 metres gained, made 15 tackles, won four turnovers, had a staggering 56 ruck involvements, claimed two line outs and scored a late try.
It might seem like a mammoth test for Leavy, but his ability to tackle, win his own ball and show willingness in the tight areas may help stem the Zimbabwean’s supremacy.
Although there is a vast level of experience between the duo, expect it to be a humdinger of a battle.
BERNARD FOLEY V JOHNNY SEXTON
The best out-half in the Northern Hemisphere returns to the starting line-up after being left on the bench for the first Test defeat in Brisbane.
The 32-year-old’s addition to the starting XV brings more to the table in terms of game management skills, kicking from hand and an ability to get the back-line moving at pace.
He can pin his opponents back deep into their own territory, with his game management skills critical to how the Men in Green perform in the 10-12 axis.
But his opposite number is one of just several obstacles standing in his way of Ireland’s threat in this area, with Foley part of a Wallabies back-line that can attack from any position.
Foley has chalked up 556 points from 56 Tests, at an average of 9.92 points a game, while Sexton has scored 683 points from 80 for an 8.53 average.
The 28-year-old – a try scorer in the first Test – can orchestrate the game from ten and with Will Genia alongside him in the half-backs, he will once again look to upset the tempo of Ireland.
Although Sexton’s kicking from tee has been off colour this season, he can still cause serious damage with ball in hand and solidity in defence. Will be central to Saturday’s result.
The Wallabies scrum was a massive strength in the first Test and Ireland will need to marshal this area if they are to gain a foothold in the contest.
Sio and Kepu were major parts of the Wallabies’ granite-like defence in Brisbane, with the latter in particular, shining with nine tackles and one turnover.
The Waratahs warrior remains a reliable presence, but his front-row partner Sio needs to make more of a contribution on the ground if they are to cut down the impact of a mighty Irish front three which features Healy and Furlong.
Furlong, the best loose head in the world, is an imposing presence and always has the edge in the scrum, but he’ll need plenty of assistance from Healy to get the upperhand on a dominant Wallabies forward unit.
The Wallabies purred with confidence last Saturday, but with the return of first choice stars, Ireland will hoping to step up against Michael Cheika’s side.
Set up to be one of the tightest battles on the pitch.