Sun, Nov 19, 2006 - Page 23 News List

Ireland to face difficult Aussie test

AFP , DUBLIN

Australia's Stirling Mortlock catches a ball during a training session in Dublin on Thursday ahead of an international rugby union match against Ireland at Lansdowne Road today.

PHOTO: AP

Talismanic Irish skipper Brian O'Driscoll has warned his side against being complacent after their record 32-15 defeat of the 1995 world champions South Africa when they face the Australians at Lansdowne Road today.

The 27-year-old center acknowledged his side's experience as they come closer to 800 caps altogether but he also accepted the two-time world champions superiority over his side which has seen the Australians win the last four of their encounters.

"They [the Australians] are the smartest side in the world elite," said O'Driscoll, who recently put Irish fears to rest by signing a contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) till 2011 worth a reputed 400,000 euros (US$512,000) a year with a government permitted 40 percent tax rebate.

"We should not read too much into our victory over South Africa as I have already called for us to not have a chip on our shoulder over beating southern hemisphere sides as we know we are as good as they are," he said. "At the same time we must keep our feet on the ground and come up with the same performance as we did against South Africa."

However, while Australia's battle hardened coach John Connolly believes that the Irish or his side could go all the way next year at the World Cup, he thinks having introduced a new center partnership in two of the veterans of the 2003 World Cup final defeat to England through captain Stirling Mortlock and Lote Tuqiri they can see off the hosts today.

"Yup," chuckled the 55-year-old coach when asked if they (Mortlock and Tuqiri) could take on O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy on Sunday.

"It will be a good challenge for them," added the two-time Super 12 coach of the year.

Tuqiri, who has 48 caps and 25 tries since his debut in 2003 but has yet to score a try on this tour, believes that O'Driscoll and D'Arcy are not invincible.

"Brian O'Driscoll is undoubtedly a real superstar and a genuine class act," said the 27-year-old.

"However, while Stirling and myself are a new partnership and we also know that O'Driscoll is a great player we also accept that he has weaknesses which we can expose and will try and do on Sunday[today]," added Tuqiri, who like fellow tourist Mat Rogers could well return to rugby league after the World Cup next year.

Irish coach Eddie O'Sullivan said he did not believe that having beaten the Springboks, his team was necessarily a favorite for a second successive victory.

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