AUCKLAND: Ireland have made four changes to their starting XV for Saturday’s World Cup Pool C showdown with Australia at Eden Park here.
The centre partnership of Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll has been retained and they will play their 45th international together in the centres, breaking the world record.
D’Arcy and O’Driscoll share the record of 44 matches paired in the centres with England’s Jeremy Guscott and Will Carling prior to their joint appearance against Australia.
In terms of changes to the Ireland team, prop Cian Healy replaces Tom Court, flanker Sean O’Brien comes in for Shane Jennings, scrum half Eoin Reddan takes over from Conor Murray and full back Rob Kearney is in for Geordan Murphy.
The Irish opened with a 22-10 win over the United States in New Plymouth, while Australia trumped Italy 32-6.
Much admired by his Australian counterparts, O’Driscoll said that he too was full of admiration for the Wallaby style of running rugby.
“They’re often innovators when it comes to back-end play and they’re forward thinkers in that regard,” he said.
“You do see other countries trying to copy some of the things they do but, at the same time, we feel as though we have the capability of shutting them down if we defend accordingly.
“The game today is all about the speed of your ruck ball and not allowing them the chance to realign and reset.
“It’s a very good team and any team that wins the Tri Nations has to be reckoned with.”
A win for Australia would ensure their qualification for the last eight with Ireland left to compete with Six Nations rivals Italy for the second pool qualifying slot.
Coach Declan Kidney admitted that much was at stake but he said it was important that Ireland concentrated on getting their own game right and not be too complexed about playing the team ranked second best in the world.
“When you’re playing the Tri Nations champions, those are the games you are looking forward to, that is easy to get yourself up for,” the coach said.
“The trick is not to get yourself too anxious about it and just go out and play your normal game and that’s what we’ve been working hard at doing.
“We’ve to lift our game even more and finish off the chances.”
O’Driscoll said another factor could be the crowd, with many Irish fans expected to be in the stadium and his hope that ‘neutral’ New Zealanders would root for underdogs Ireland as opposed to traditional enemy Australia.