Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt says his players must improve at the breakdown against Australia after watching Conor Murray lose his cool in the defeat to the Wallabies last weekend.
The Six Nations champions have made eight changes to the side that fell to an 18-9 defeat last week for the second test in Melbourne on Saturday (kick-off 11am) where an Irish victory would lead to a winner-takes-all decider in Sydney.
The Wallabies outscored the visitors by two tries to nothing last week, but it was at the breakdown where they exuded real dominance, with team captain Michael Hooper and David Pocock showing their prowess on the ground and repeatedly slowing down quick Irish ball.
Schmidt was unhappy with some of the decisions by referee Marius van der Westhuizen on the day, while scrum-half Murray cut a frustrated figure on the pitch at times.
At one point in the game, with Ireland on the attack and five metres from the Irish line, Murray remonstrated vigorously for van der Westhuizen to take action against the Aussies.
When the decision was given the way of the home side, the exasperated scrum-half questioned the decision and his protestations led to the scrum being upgraded to a penalty.
Schmidt insists that cannot happen again and that the men in green must compete better at the breakdown against Hooper and Pocock in particular.
"In the last few years, Australia have had a 65% winning record, but when Pocock doesn’t play, it’s mid-40’s," he told RTÉ Sport’s Michael Corcoran.
"Conor lost his cool and that is unacceptable and he’s well aware of that now"
"That shows how important he is. We are going to have to be well aware of Pocock, but Hooper is also a real threat on the ball, but we have to make sure we clean them right out.
"We had guys who were in and around the ruck, putting hands back on...I know Conor lost his cool and that is unacceptable and he’s well aware of that now, but if we don’t get rid of them completely, they do tend to slow your ball really effectively.
"While that was a frustration for us, we have to look after that."
With five changes in the pack and Johnny Sexton among the three players coming into the backline, the Kiwi says it is time for players to show what they are made of with the series in the balance.
"We wanted to use this tour to give an opportunity to players and for them to put their hand up in a real pressure cooker situation," he said.
"They didn’t get much more of a furnace than last weekend in Brisbane in terms of humidity, pressure and physicality. I’ve no doubt the AAMI Stadium might be a little cooler, but I think the intensity will be just as high.
"It is offering an opportunity to some players. It is also bringing some players back in there to potentially give us a little bit more experience in key positions."
Schmidt specifically pointed to the scrum as an area that requires improvement, highlighting the opportunity for Munster’s Niall Scannell at hooker, with Sexton also "pretty enthusiastic" to be returning to the fold.
A knock to the knee for Iain Henderson sees Devin Toner come into a lineout that "functioned really well" according to Schmidt, while the introduction of Andrew Conway on the wing and Garry Ringrose in midfield should vary Ireland’s attacking options.
"They both have the footspeed to cause a few issues for the Australians, but also they have the competitive edge that will hopefully allow them to shut down some of the Australian attack."
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