Wallabies’ 39-year Ireland streak under threat
IRELAND are on the verge of a record-breaking win, and they could be the world's second-best team when they land here in June, but the Wallabies are quietly plotting strategies to stop the green machine.
If Ireland defeats Scotland this weekend, they'll have won 11 consecutive Tests for the first time in history.
It has rated little mention in Ireland, with coach Joe Schmidt notoriously hesitant to talk about records, but the grand ambitions of the side was laid bare by their greatest player.
Retired centre Brian O'Driscoll revealed that Ireland was not just focused on winning the Six Nations this weekend with victory in Dublin, but on claiming an undefeated Grand Slam by beating England the following week in London.
"They're not thinking Championship, they are thinking Slam," O'Driscoll told the Off The Ball podcast.
"And they don't want to talk about it and all the questions being fielded - Joe Schmidt or anyone else that gets asked about - of course because you have to give the respect to Scotland.
"But ultimately this team, the vast majority of them have two Championships ... in '14 and '15 and what's eluded them is the Slam. That's all they're thinking about."
If Ireland does achieve the Slam, they'll arrive in Australia as the world's No.2 ranked side behind the All Blacks and above England and the Wallabies.
Australia's defence coach Nathan Grey has already visited players at the Waratahs, Reds and Rebels, while on Tuesday he'll drive to Canberra to talk to the Brumbies about how they need to be performing if they want to wear the gold jersey in June.
"Ireland are a high possession team, they have over 60 per cent possession, so while a lot of people think they kick a lot they actually like to hold onto the ball," Grey said.
"They're very effective at regaining kicks, it is a tactical strength of theirs and they get a lot of possession from it.
"[Halves] Conor Murray and Jonny Sexton did an excellent job conducting the British & Irish Lions last year and that consistency has flowed through.
"We've got to win the aerial contest, and that is a multi-faceted task. It's not just a job for whoever catches the ball, it's about how you land, securing the breakdown, the angle which you enter the ruck, body position, they're all critical.
"While we'll be relying on Israel Folau and Dane Haylett-Petty to catch those high balls, we also want to see our backrowers pulling width 35 metres away creating an opportunity for us to attack because if they give the ball to us we want to make the most of it.
"I'm really excited about what's to come; they like to keep the ball in hand, we like to keep the ball in hand, it's going to make for a very entertaining series."
Ireland has won 10 consecutive games only twice before in their history.
Their first streak was orchestrated from September 2002 to March 2003, while their second was from March 2014 to March 2015.
Ireland face Australia in the first three-Test series between the countries, with matches at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane (June 9), Melbourne's AAMI Park (June 16) and Sydney's Allianz Stadium (June 23).
Ireland have not beaten the Wallabies in Australia since 1979.
IRELAND'S RECORD STREAK
1. 55-19 vs USA (June 10, 2017, Harrison)
2. 50-22 vs JAPAN (June 17, 2017, Shizuoka)
3. 35-15 vs JAPAN (June 24, 2017, Tokyo)
4. 38-3 vs SOUTH AFRICA (November 11, 2017, Dublin)
5. 23-20 vs FIJI (November 18, 2017, Dublin)
6. 28-19 vs ARGENTINA (November 25, 2017, Dublin)
7. 15-13 vs FRANCE (February 3, 2018, Paris)
8. 56-19 vs ITALY (February 10, 2018, Dublin)
9. 37-27 vs WALES (February 24, 2018, Dublin)
10. 13-9 vs ENGLAND (March 18, 2017, Dublin)