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Rugby: We didn't turn up last time against the Aussies

Murray says Irish would love to make amends for last year's poor display

By Ruaidhri O’Connor

Albert Einstein contended that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results was a sign of insanity, but Ireland are taking the opposite approach.

They are getting the results, but doing the same thing again against Australia won't be good enough for them to repeat the trick.

Joe Schmidt's side come to the end of their 2014 schedule on the back of six successive wins and on the verge of a rare autumn clean sweep, but each victory has required a different set of tools.

Beating South Africa and taking down Australia will require varying approaches from the coach and his squad, who are not resting on their laurels when it comes to finishing November with three from three.

The words 'clean' and 'sweep' are being treated with extreme caution around Carton House this week, but there is a quiet confidence to the squad as they prepare to take on the one team to beat them heavily since the New Zealander took over.

Game three of last year's series was the one in which Ireland produced by far their best display, while the ability to rest the core of the team who beat the Springboks will stand to Schmidt this week.

Australia weren't thinking about Ireland last Saturday night, they were too busy dealing with a ferocious French effort, but Ireland's leader's gaze was fully fixed on the Wallabies.

They may have been running as the Georgians in training with the second string, but Conor Murray yesterday revealed that those handed the weekend off were given permission to look ahead, a luxury in this 'one game at a time' world.

"We found out midway through last week that we wouldn't be involved, so we were allowed to kind of switch into Australia mode and start having a look at their players and the way they are playing," the scrum-half explained.

"It was nice to give the body a rest and we can come into this week with a good bit of knowledge built up about the Australians and a fresh body that you can train well.

"It was a nice little bonus to have the rest for the weekend and turn your mind towards Australia. You still had to focus on Georgia obviously - we ran against the lads who were playing against Georgia and tried to emulate what Georgia do to an extent, but our main focus was probably on Australia."

Both teams will make changes from last weekend, but while - Ulster's Jared Payne aside - Schmidt is recalling his big hitters, Michael Cheika is rotating and resting after a gruelling couple of weeks. Ireland are forewarned as to what the Wallabies bring. They probably know Saturday's opponents better than any southern hemisphere side, while they have been living with last year's defeat for more than 12 months now.

"We just didn't perform," Murray, who came off the bench that day, recalled. "We played well against Samoa and then just didn't turn up.

"We let ourselves down and then picked it up the next week (against New Zealand) and that is something that we have been talking about; we can't afford to play badly and be a reactive side, to come out the next week fighting, trying to put things right.

"We've got to be consistent and make sure we're on a good, upward curve, not wait to be knocked down to come back up again."

Although, internally, they have always felt that last year's performance wasn't as poor as reported, the four-try to nil humbling remains the worst defeat of Schmidt's tenure.

"There could be an argument for that," Murray conceded. "Things didn't go right for us. We were maybe a little bit complacent thinking we had a right to play well against Australia and probably beat them.

"To play any southern hemisphere team you have got to be on top of your game and really play well and have a bit of edge about you. We were probably missing that last year, came up short in a couple of areas which we are looking not to do this year."

Yesterday, forwards coach Simon Easterby cautiously picked through the dilemmas facing the coaching team, but hinted experience will win out when it comes to the big calls.

Closest to his own heart is the availability of Rory Best, who missed the first two November Tests due to a calf injury.

Sean Cronin did well in his absence against the Boks, while Richardt Strauss has also impressed, but Ulster captain Best is part of Ireland's leadership corps, started all 10 games last season and is likely to earn a recall based on his importance to the group and abilities on the deck.

"Rory trained today," Easterby said. "He stayed in and around camp for the last couple of weeks. It's a great position to be in, we've three very good hookers currently available to us, which is excellent and probably a real strength for us.

"Sean's continued his Leinster form into the South Africa game. He's dynamic, can break the game up and not many players can do that. He's got other things he has to work on constantly and works hard.

"Rory's probably at a different place in terms of his experience than the other two and you have to reward that experience sometimes."

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