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05th Nov 2014

Autumn Internationals: Ranking the potential outcomes for Ireland from best case scenario to absolute disaster

We weigh up how Ireland might fare in the Autumn internationals and outline the scenarios that will determine whether it’ll be a series to forget or a November to remember.


We weigh up how Ireland might fare in the Autumn internationals and outline the scenarios that will determine whether it’ll be a series to forget or a November to remember.

The November series isn’t always the most reliable barometer of the state of the Irish rugby team but the importance of the forthcoming tests awaiting Joe Schmidt’s men cannot be overstated.

A year out from the World Cup, now is the time when the team we’ll see in the tournament will begin to take shape and there are any number of key positions to be nailed down in the first XV before the 2015 showpiece and the Six Nations early next year.

As well as that, it’s important to build momentum ahead of the defence of the Six Nations title and bringing the southern hemisphere giants down a peg or two is always a nice bonus.

So, how will it all pan out? We weighed up the potential outcomes on a sliding scale from Grand Slam 2009 levels of giddy optimism to 13-man lineout 1999 levels of unmitigated disaster.

Head coach Joe Schmidt speaks to his players 8/3/2014

Hopelessly optimistic best case scenario…

Ireland not only beat South Africa and Australia at the Aviva Stadium, but they absolutely hammer them, with over 20 points to spare over both.

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer says that Ireland’s performance was “as good as what you’d see from the All-Blacks” singling out the half-back partnership of Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton and “that new guy at 13 (Robbie Henshaw)” for particular praise.

A second-string outfit wipe the floor with Georgia before a super-confident Ireland brush the Wallabies aside a week later, with the foundations for a comprehensive five-try victory laid by a dominant scrum, where the previously untested Tadgh Furlong emerged as a surprise challenger to Mike Ross for the tight head spot.

The normally conservative Joe Schmidt can’t help but express his delight at Ireland’s rude health and with the likes of Cian Healy, Sean O’Brien and Andrew Trimble to return, Paul O’Connell’s men are installed as second favourites behind the All-Blacks to win the 2015 World Cup (we did say hopelessly optimistic).

Joe Schmidt would snap your hand off for…

The scalps of South Africa and Australia, however ugly they might turn out to be. There’s no getting away from the fact that, with uncertainty over who will fill crucial positions in the centre and front row in particular, there will be an experimental element to whatever XV Joe Schmidt names in the two big tests.

That said, some of the major figures in the Ireland team – Peter O’Mahony, Jamie Heaslip and Conor Murray to name three – are in fine fettle at the moment and whatever about taking them on in their own backyard, beating the Springboks and the Wallabies on our own turf has never been beyond Ireland in more recent years.

It’ll take some doing, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

Joe Schmidt 24/11/2013

We’d take that…

This one is bit less optimistic but it is very achievable for Schmidt and his band of merry men: Wins over Australia and Georgia combined with a narrow and valiant loss to a very powerful South Africa side. With so many injuries to key players and a scrum that looks a little lightweight, a good performance against South Africa would be enough to satisfy our needs.

Australia are frustratingly inconsistent and we take advantage of that to claim a narrow victory and avenge our loss to them in the same fixture last year. As a team over the series as a whole, we show signs of building on the sometimes limited game plan we had during this year’s Six Nations and add a couple of strings to our bow going into next year’s international fixtures.

Just call us psychic in a month’s time when this prediction comes to fruition.

A bit meh…

We take to the field on Saturday and get absolutely hammered both on the scoreboard and physically on the pitch. South Africa dominate the set piece and use it as a foundation to claim an easy victory and reinforce the southern hemisphere line of thinking that we are inferior to them in the rugby stakes.

We rebound manfully and earn a comfortable victory against Georgia. In our final game against Australia, we play our best game of the series and at times we look very good. A few silly errors and penalties cost us points but we shut down the attacking threat of Israel Folau and the dangerous Australian backline to claim a narrow victory at the death.

However, throughout the series, our scrum is under pressure and nobody puts their hand up with any authority for the number 13 shirt.

Johnny Sexton 8/2/2014

Bare minimum required…

We lose against a strong Springbok side in our first outing, show very little cohesion or inventiveness and in the end rather meekly surrender. Joe Schimdt comes out in the press and states that Ireland will improve throughout the rest of the series.

People trust in Joe but things aren’t much better against Georgia where we struggle for long periods but finally pull away from the eastern Europeans in the last quarter of an hour in a hard-earned victory. The late scores put a gloss on the scoreline but real questions are raised about the Irish squad’s strength in depth

Australia come to town and leave with the spoils in a tight game with a much improved performance from the Irish. We take an early lead but the genius of Israel Folau becomes apparent as he ghosts through the line in midfield on two separate occasions to set-up tries in the corner.

Unmitigated disaster…

We lose all three games heavily. South Africa beat us by a scoreline of 57-8 with Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray getting into a fist fight with one another on the pitch and receiving their marching orders.

They are banned for the rest of the series and Joe Schimdt calls up Paul Marshall and Jimmy Gopperth as cover, not realising that the Kiwi is ineligible. He plays Gopperth against Georgia after Ian Madigan gets hairspray in his eye before the game and is unable to take to the field. Ireland win but are disqualified for playing an ineligible player and handed a massive fine. The fine is so large that a tax is brought in around the country to help the IRFU pay off the debt but the public are unhappy and riots result.

Ireland versus Australia is played behind closed doors due to the nationwide riots as Schmidt begins to lose his grip on the squad. Ireland lose 77-3 after going ahead through a Jamie Heaslip drop goal after two minutes. Australia run in seven tries and make a host of line breaks. Joe Schmidt is unrepentant after the final whistle, stating that he ‘thought we played some good rugby in the opening two minutes’ and ‘only for a controversial refereeing decision here and there, the result could easily have gone the other way’.

A couple of weeks later, Schmidt is sacked as Ireland coach… (we did say it would be an unmitigated disaster).