Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

McKenzie encouraged by new backs

Matt Toomua is a key playmaker for Australia

Australia coach Ewen McKenzie believes a backline stacked full of playmakers has "come out of nowhere" to help his side's transformation after their British and Irish Lions series defeat.

McKenzie admitted the likes of centres Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani have taken a huge leap in international standings during this autumn tour.

Both creative talents will start against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, with the new Australia boss expecting even more from them.

"A group of playmakers have suddenly come out of nowhere for us, and it's definitely building the spine of our backline," McKenzie said.

"It's giving us more options and we're very pleased with how that's building.

"You see even the likes of Israel (Folau) at the back there, then Matt Toomua in midfield, along with Tevita there too.

"Then there's Christian Leali'ifano on the bench who can change things up.

"It's important for the style of game we want to play that we can have that variable point of attack."

Australia's 2-1 Test series defeat to the Lions cost New Zealander Robbie Deans his job.

Dangerous fly-half Quade Cooper was persona non grata under taskmaster boss Deans, whose determination to rule with an iron first probably cost him his job as much as that Lions disappointment.

Former Queensland Reds coach McKenzie quickly drafted Cooper back in on his appointment - and then handed him the vice captaincy to boot.

Cooper has this week hailed scrum-half Will Genia as playing an integral role in his effective international rehabilitation.

And McKenzie is confident his half-back pairing can continue to make progress.

McKenzie said: "It's great to see Quade coming along, and I think he's making strides all the time.

"Clearly that partnership with Will is important to us, but I think it's important to both of them too."

Targeting the breakdown as the perfect area to stop Ireland at source at Dublin's Aviva Stadium, McKenzie backed Michael Hooper to cause the hosts plenty of problems over the tackle.

He added: "The breakdown is an area that has a pivotal outcome on almost every game at this level.

"So we know we've got to be totally switched on and right up to speed there, to go against a strong Irish set-up in that respect.

"But I think we have good balance there and hopefully we can bring that to bear to stop their experienced and talented backline getting front-foot ball."

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