Ireland to make changes for series decider

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Ireland are expecting a full complement to choose from in Sydney, but forwards coach Simon Easterby said they were still looking at change for the series decider.

The Irish had a handful of injury concerns coming into Sydney, but Easterby is expecting most of those to be fit for the series decider on Saturday, but there could still be some rotations.

Ireland made eight changes to their side for the second Test, bringing in their first-string stars to start the Test, but Easterby said they were interested in giving some inexperienced players a chance in the 23, even with the stakes so high.

“There will be some changes and whether that's the starting team or the bench I think there's always going to be an opportunity throughout a three-Test series, not only through injuries, but also through our need to get some exposure for some of the more inexperienced players on a tour like this,” he said.

“We're not that far out from a World Cup and this has been a great trip for us to get to know players that we're maybe not that familiar with, but also to get some really important game time and training time with those players.”

There was speculation that loosehead Cian Healy might be ruled out of the match, after Munster prop Dan Kilcoyne was spotted training with the squad in Sydney on Tuesday, but Healy was involved in at least some part of training.

Wing Andrew Conway is still working through a hip pointer injury, while flanker Dan Leavy was ‘managed’ through training, Easterby said.

“Cian trained, Dan we managed a bit, Andrew still carrying nasty hip pointer but the way they've presented themselves 48 hours post-game, is very encouraging,” he said.

“We're pretty happy with the availability of training today but also the way the players have shown up today and even the guys that have carried some serious bumps from the weekend are looking far better than we expected.”

Ireland had another non-squad member in training in Melbourne, with former Sale Sharks captain Will Addison linking up with the team in the second week.

CJ Stander says a series win would 'top off' Ireland's 2018 season. Photo: Getty ImagesAddison is Ireland eligible, after signing with Ulster for next season, and Easterby said the timing worked out for the utility back to be a part of the squad.

“I guess certainly in Will's case, he was over visiting family and he had an opportunity to come in,” he said.

“When you've got someone who's moving to Ulster and is Irish-qualified and you've an opportunity to use him and getting him into the squad was good and the players to meet him as well and he trained, so it was a quite useful time for him as well and for us to see him in action.”

Ireland’s win in Melbourne was their first in Australia since 1979 and a win in Sydney would be an historic first series win down under, something backrower CJ Stander said would ‘top off’ a successful season.

“I think it'll top off the season quite well and I think it's surely up there in the top three (achievements),” he said.

“We've had a good few seasons now behind us and we wanted to come down here and make sure we get a series win.

“We got disappointed in the first game and I think the excitement is building up now for the decider for the last one.”

The Wallabies host Ireland at Allianz Stadium on Saturday June 23, kicking off at 8:05pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Channel Ten and via RADIO.