Ireland kick off their summer tour with the first of three matches against Australia at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane in Saturday, live on Sky Sports Action and Main Event.
Ireland head to Australia with Irish rugby riding a significant wave, fresh from a Six Nations Grand Slam and leading province Leinster having completed a PRO14 and Champions Cup double.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a mouth-watering showdown at Suncorp…
Australia vs Ireland
June 9, 2018, 10:45am
Australia kick-start their season under pressure to improve on a worrying 2017 campaign that saw them register only seven victories from their 14 Test outings.
They deserve huge credit for handing New Zealand a rare defeat in October, although critics will point to the fact that it came in the third and final Bledisloe Cup clash and with the All Blacks having already secured the sizeable silverware.
The warning signs were there earlier in the year with a home defeat to Scotland and the Scots proved that was no fluke by putting 50 points on the Wallabies when they met again at Murrayfield at the end of the year – albeit with Australia down to 14 for the majority.
That defeat followed an equally galling loss to England at Twickenham where they were also kept try-less.
Ireland powered to the Six Nations title earlier this year with a clean sweep of their northern hemisphere rivals.
They set the seal on what was only their third Grand Slam with a commanding 24-15 victory over England at Twickenham.
They are riding a 12-game winning streak dating back to last year’s Six Nations when Wales got the better of them in Cardiff.
That impressive run of results includes wins against Rugby Championship rivals South Africa and Argentina as well as two victories over England.
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Ireland 27-24 Australia, Aviva Stadium, November 26, 2016
These sides last met in Dublin in 2016 where tries from Iain Henderson, Garry Ringrose and Keith Earls along with the boot of Paddy Jackson propelled the injury-ravaged hosts to victory.
That win saw the Irish complete an unprecedented hat-trick of victories over the southern hemisphere’s big three in the same year for the first time. They had previously secured a first away victory over South Africa and an historic first success against the All Blacks in Chicago.
The last time they faced each other in Australia was in 2010 when tries from Luke Burgess and Quade Cooper proved critical in a 22-15 victory in Brisbane.
Australia – Israel Folau. The outspoken Wallabies star has hogged the headlines for all the wrong reasons so far this year, so will no doubt be desperate to let his rugby do the talking over the next few weeks.
One of the most exciting talents in the modern game, Folau has an enviable skillset which ensures he is a near-constant threat in attack and also reliable in defence.
He is coming off a stand-out year that saw him notch 12 tries in his 10 appearances to take his career total to 32 tries in 62 games in the Green and Gold. He also has five tries to his name in this year’s Super Rugby competition.
Ireland – James Ryan: Will the young Leinster lock continue the dream start to his professional career?
Ryan boasts an incredible record of 23 wins from 23 outings for province and country – an incredible run of results that has seen him share in Ireland’s Six Nations Grand Slam and Leinster’s Champions Cup and PRO14 successes.
Ireland boss Joe Schmidt offered a ringing endorsement of Ryan’s ability to shine on the Test match stage, commenting earlier this year: “Mentally he has a brain for it, he has an attitude for it, a maturity for it, and he has an athleticism for it.”
The 21-year-old says he still has plenty to learn but has already drawn comparisons with Australia legend John Eales and what better way to cement that status than against the current Wallabies?
Michael Cheika: “They’re the best team Ireland’s had since the start of their rugby history.
“They’re coming down here as No 2 in the world. They can claim they’re underdogs as much as they like but they’re certainly going to be the favourites when they go off the back of the season they’ve had.”
Joe Schmidt: “One of the challenges we set for Joey [Carbery] is that he’s got to boss it. He’s in that pivotal link for most of what we’re doing so he’s got to boss that.
“At the same time we’ve challenged Robbie [Henshaw] and Bundee [Aki] to help him as best they can because if they can do a little bit of that work for him and take a little bit of that pressure off him, I think it’s going to be advantageous for Joey. It’ll free him up to act rather than to think all the time.”
The headline news coming into this one is that Munster-bound fly-half Carbery starts, with Johnny Sexton among the replacements.
Ireland have made six changes to the team that beat England at Twickenham to clinch a Six Nations Grand Slam, with skipper Rory Best out injured and Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, Dan Leavy and Garry Ringrose all rested.
For the Wallabies, Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Caleb Timu will make their debuts in Saturday’s first Test.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Dane Haylett Petty, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia; 1 Scott Sio, 2 Brandon Paenga Amosa, 3 Sekope Kepu, 4 Izack Rodda, 5 Adam Coleman, 6 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 8 Caleb Timu.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Lukhan Tui, 21 Pete Samu, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Reece Hodge.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Conor Murray; 1 Jack McGrath, 2 Rob Herring, 3 John Ryan, 4 James Ryan, 5 Iain Henderson, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 7 Jordi Murphy, 8 CJ Stander.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Johnny Sexton, 23 Jordan Larmour.