What are we talking about after Australia's loss to Ireland?
1. Grand Slam over again
Ireland was always going to be the biggest challenge for the Wallabies on this tour, particularly after beating the All Blacks three weeks ago in Chicago and they proved the ultimate road block to Australia’s Grand Slam bid. The Irish side’s quick start set the tone and they clung on in the final stages to deny the Wallabies their shot at history. The late withdrawal of Sean O’Brien didn’t seem to hurt Ireland as much as expected, with Josh van der Flier putting in a Man of the Match performance at openside for the home team. The Wallabies fought valiantly but the three-point loss means the Grand Slam eludes them once more.
2. Wallabies don’t mind a bit of adversity but starts need to be better
Three-quarters of possession against them, two yellow cards, a mounting penalty count all piled up on the Wallabies in Dublin but they once again showed they’re not afraid to claw their way back into games. Two tries after halftime put them in the lead after an immense defensive effort in the first half. This time it fell just short but they showed their trademark mettle to get themselves out of a 17-point hole and into the lead - even if it was for just three minutes. Execution at the final stages let them down again, with chances to take the game going begging. Their attitude is right but consistency and execution aren't there yet.
3. 'Super Sefa' strikes gold
He’s waited three years for a chance to play for Australia and Sefa Naivalu was finally given a decent shot at making an impact, coming on midway through the second half. He only needed one touch to make it count in Dublin. A tantalising prospect, Naivalu is also strong in defence and that cameo showed exactly the kind of weapon he can be. It will be little solace for him after the loss, but a bright spot in the bigger picture for Australia. Outside centre Tevita Kuridrani finished well once again, with his shot at tries in every match on tour still a goer after another super effort that put the Wallabies back in the game.
4. Penalties a problem
The Wallabies had conceded five penalties by the time Ireland opted to take a shot at points, a trend that hasn’t really abated this year. A 23rd minute yellow card for Dean Mumm compounded their pain in the first half, with all the major statistics against them. A second yellow card came for Bernard Foley in the final minute of the game as the Wallabies desperately hung on. On the wrong end of a 13-3 penalty count from referee Jerome Garces the Wallabies need to do better so they can take the high ground in these sort of matches. There was plenty of discussion about some of the referee's interpretations with a number of the 50-50 decisions allowing Ireland to take control.
5. Bring on Eddie
The Grand Slam attempt might be over but next week it’s all about Eddie Jones and England. Jones wasted little time in throwing barbs at the Wallabies and the Australian media for their treatment of England in June. England beat Argentina, the team Jones lauded as the second best of The Rugby Championship on Friday, with just 14 men for almost the entire match. It was an enthralling three weeks in June when the two sides went up against each other and this is the game that the Wallabies will have earmarked for revenge. It’s going to be a big, big week. Stay tuned!