By Brendan Cole

There is buoyancy in Irish rugby after the stirring victory over South Africa, but a powerful and athletic set of outside backs will severely examine the ability of Joe Schmidt's side to register a second November victory over SANZAR opposition this year (4.30pm RTÉ 2).

Front and centre in the lead-up to the Guinness Series, Ireland’s lengthy injury list has been down the agenda since that result, but it hasn’t gone away and Ireland are still missing the guts of a full Test-quality XV.

The positive is that despite the many absentees, Paul O’Connell, Jamie Heaslip, Conor Murray, Jonathan Sexton and Rob Kearney do give Ireland an enviably strong spine.

And the Wallabies are not in perfect health either as they negotiate a difficult patch in the wake of the Kurtley Beale text messaging scandal, which forced the departure of Ewen McKenzie shortly before this tour.

The formbook so far this November consists of narrow helter-skelter wins over the Barbarians and Wales and a defeat in Paris.

They are also coping with change on the training pitch as new head coach Michael Cheika seeks to adapt their style despite linking up with the squad just three days before it left for Europe.

But it must be taken into account that the positive sentiment surrounding Ireland is in large part down to that victory over the Springboks. Despite the impressive margin, no-one will have given it a more clear-sighted assessment than Schmidt.

Would Ireland have won if South Africa had pressed their advantage in the scrum or opted to kick for points at key moments instead of backing the lineout? 

Ireland have not performed at their best in every game under Schmidt. They could barely land a glove against Australia 12 months ago and were also outgunned by England in this year's Six Nations.

Both of those sides featured outstanding full-backs, denying Ireland a key safety valve, and Israel Folau is capable of doing so again either by dominating under high ball or forcing Murray and Sexton to look elsewhere with the boot.

It is also worth remembering that the Wallaby pack was considered a prime target 12 months ago but instead ended up doing a number on their Irish counterpart that included a dominant scrum performance.

Ireland can be thankful that the hooker that day, Stephen Moore, is absent on this occasion, with Saia Fainga’a drafted in from well down the depth chart, but it is still to easy to underestimate the quality of an Australian pack staffed by top-level Super 15 performers.

VIDEO: Michael Cheika on his team selection

Cheika on his Australia selection

The Australian backline is also  more dangerous than it was a year ago, not least as it now boasts a fully-integrated Tevita Kuridrani at outside centre. Relatively quiet a year ago, his late sending-off aside, the Fijian native eclipsed Folau in the eyes of many to become Australia's best back of 2014.

Will Genia and Quade Cooper are on the bench but by combining two out-halves and 10 and 12 in Bernard Foley and Matt Toomua, and a quality passing scrum-half in Nick Phipps, Australia can spread the ball early and often to the likes of Kuridrani, Folau and new cap Henry Speight.

You sense that a huge challenge awaits Simon Zebo and Robbie Henshaw in particular.

Australia also have an outstanding back-row forward in Michael Hooper, a classically indestructible southern hemisphere seven, and the Irish pack will have a far harder job keeping him quiet then they did Teboho Mojojé. Blindside Luke Jones, an outstanding schoolboy player long considered a future star of Australia rugby, is another to watch and is capable of powering up the fringe of the Australian ruck on both sides of the ball.

What can we expect from Ireland? Toomua is a notably good defender, well capable of shooting up and knocking the patterns around Sexton out of rhythm if Australia can get their defensive line properly set.

But Sexton’s ability to use his speed and passing to induce errors in a partially installed Australian defensive structure is possibly the biggest advantage Ireland have. There is no better coach than Schmidt at figuring out a way to take advantage of Australian defenders given license to shoot up out the line.

Sexton, high tempo and powerplays key for Ireland

Jonathan Sexton

The trademark powerplays and the Irish pack’s capacity to hit a high tempo and get through multiple phases at pace – recall the New Zealand match – are other potential match-winning edges.

A fast start is definitely 'on' given that the Irish squad  was largely rested last week while Australians played a tough Test match in France.

And while neither of these scrums has been massively reliable of late, the fact that Australia conceded a penalty-try to Wales is cause for some hope that Mike Ross and the rest of the Irish tight five can rediscover their best scrummaging form.

Against that, Australia have a bench full of X-Factor with Genia,  Cooper and Beale all capable of coming in to make a significant difference.

All told, if the Australian pack can avoid being dominated, the visitors may just have the physical power to over-run Ireland out wide.

Prediction: Ireland 15-19 Australia

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney; 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Simon Zebo; 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray; 1 Jack McGrath, 2 Rory Best, 3 Mike Ross; 4 Devin Toner, 5 Paul O'Connell; 6 Peter O'Mahony, 7 Rhys Ruddock, 8 Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Tommy O’Donnell, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Felix Jones.

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Luke Jones, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 James Slipper.          

Replacements (three to be omitted): 16 James Hanson, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Benn Robinson, 19 Ben Alexander, 20 James Horwill, 21 Will Skelton 22 Jake Schatz, 23 Will Genia, 24 Quade Cooper, 25 Rob Horne, 26 Kurtley Beale.

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)