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Australia will be yardstick for us admits Rory Best

Ireland's chance to back up top three ranking

By Donnchadh Boyle

As Rory Best points out, the arrival of Australia to Lansdowne Road tomorrow afternoon is the best yardstick yet of Ireland's progression under Joe Schmidt. Sure, there has been much made of Ireland's ascension into third place in the world but this is the first time Schmidt's side have faced the same opponents twice.

And after the defeat of 12 months ago, the Aussies provide the perfect sounding board for Ireland as they ramp up their preparations for next year's Six Nations and World Cup campaigns.

"Yeah I think we do," Best replied, when asked if Ireland have a point to prove against the Aussies.

"We definitely got beaten up right across the board and when you're on the back foot against a team like Australia, with the pace they have and how clinical they are right across the team - their forwards handle as well as their backs - when you give them front-foot ball they're so lethal and last year just proved that.

"We're coming up against the first team under Joe that we've played twice, so it'll be a good marker of how far we've come.

"Let's see if we can back that up with three in a row."

Best's inclusion from the start means Ireland have gone with three different hookers in the Guinness series.

However, they will be without Chris Henry for the clash following his health scare.

Schmidt was hopeful yesterday that the Ulster flanker could be back in time for the Six Nations while Best reported his provincial colleague was in good form.

"They're dealing with it as a family. He's back up at home so he's getting a lot of support from Ulster," said Best.

"He's glad that, in terms of it happening, it couldn't have happened in a better place," he added.

"Within 90 seconds to two minutes a physio was in. Within three minutes a doctor was in."

Schmidt has backed Henry to make a full recovery from his brain injury, and maybe even stake a claim for Ireland action in the Six Nations, which starts in February.

Ulster flanker Henry suffered "a temporary blockage of a small blood vessel in his brain" on the morning of Ireland's clash with South Africa on November 8.

The 30-year-old is recuperating at home while still awaiting further tests to determine his exact situation, but may have suffered a mini-stroke although this has yet to be determined.

Doubts have been raised about his ability to return to rugby, but Ireland head coach Schmidt said he is "quietly confident" Henry will be back for club and country.

"I really feel for Chris: this time last year he got injured at this point and missed the two big southern hemisphere teams we played," said Schmidt.

"The fact that he's got some more tests to come, I wouldn't really like to comment.

"But I'd be quietly confident that Chris will come through the other side," he added.

"I'd be very hopeful that he gets his boots back on; and there may even be time for him to do that before the Six Nations.

"The specialists will let us know a bit more once those tests have come through."

Ireland medics initially diagnosed a virus on the morning of the Springboks clash before suspecting a severe migraine, but specialists have since determined a more unusual condition.

Henry now "needs further investigation and specialist opinion," according to an Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) statement released on Monday.

"Chris Henry suffered some weakness on the morning of the South Africa game and a viral illness was suspected, he recovered quickly and the initial diagnosis was of severe migraine," said the IRFU statement.

"Further tests however have shown he suffered a temporary blockage of a small blood vessel in his brain.

"He is at home now and is well but needs further investigation and specialist opinion."

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