Ireland’s preparation for the upcoming World Cup continues this Autumn with the return of the Guinness Series. This year, Ireland welcome South Africa, Georgia and Australia to the Aviva Stadium for what promises to be a ferocious autumn campaign.
Joe Schmidt will relish the opportunity to experiment with various team line-ups amid numerous injury concerns as well as the retirement of the longtime talisman, Brian O’ Driscoll. Ireland aren’t short of options when it comes to wearing the prestigious jersey. Robbie Henshaw has been a clear choice for the Head Coach but with Jared Payne qualifying to play this November, Schmidt will have plenty to mull over during the three clashes.
It is expected that star out-half Jonathan Sexton will have recovered in time from an injury sustained while playing for Racing Metro. The 29 year old suffered a fractured jaw during a Top 14 match against Toulon. It was also reported last week that Munster man Donnacha Ryan will face a lengthy spell on the sideline as he prepares for a toe surgery. The second-row will be in a race against time to regain fitness ahead of the 2015 Six Nations Championship.
He will be joined in the race by Leinster prop, Cian Healy. Scans have revealed that the Clontarf man tore his hamstring off the bone during a training ground incident. They join Ulster duo Dan Touhy and Iain Henderson on the injury list, which is sure to have given Schmidt a second-row headache.
Ireland will certainly need all the players they have available when they come up against the Springboks in the first round. The two sides last met in the 2012 Autumn series with South Africa emerging 16-12 victors. Indeed, Ireland haven’t beaten the team currently ranked second in the IRB table since 2009.
South Africa are well known for their physicality and Schmidt will be hoping that all his players come through the clash unscathed. With Ireland’s increasing momentum following from the Six Nations and the test wins against Argentina, there is nothing to stop Schmidt’s men from getting back on winning form, especially with the talented backline that Ireland has available.
Following on from that, Ireland will face Georgia, a team which have never beaten the men in green. In fact, Ireland have won all three games that they have played against Georgia. However, Ireland won’t be taking the team for granted after Georgia nearly took the spoils at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in Bordeaux, only for a Girvan Dempsey try which saved Ireland’s blushes.
Ireland’s last test will see them facing Southern Hemisphere side, Australia. Ireland last faced the Aussies during last year’s Guinness Series in which they were overwhelmed by a strong Australian side. The Aussies ran four tries past a disjointed Ireland this time twelve months ago and no doubt Joe Schmidt’s charges will be seeking revenge.
All the action kicks off from Dublin starting with the visit of South Africa on November 8th, followed by the clash with Georgia the following Sunday the 16th November. The series will wrap up with the encounter between Australia and Ireland in the Aviva Stadium on November 22. The excitement is about to restart as Ireland prepares for life without BOD.