Ireland v Australia: Coach Joe Schmidt set to name strongest team
Joe Schmidt is expected to name his strongest possible team as Ireland look to complete their first November clean sweep since 2006 against Australia on Saturday. Having rested the vast majority of the team that beat South Africa for Sunday's win over Georgia, the coach is likely to recall 11 of those who sat out the comprehensive victory when he names his team this afternoon.
Fit-again Rory Best looks set to leapfrog Sean Cronin and Richardt Strauss into the hooker slot, with Schmidt consequently facing a real dilemma as to which of the Leinster pair makes it on to the bench.
Before succumbing to a calf injury for the South Africa challenge, Best started every one of Schmidt's Ireland games and the Ulster captain's experience, scrummaging and work at the breakdown is likely to give him the edge.
With Jared Payne out with a foot injury, Schmidt is set to pair Gordon D'Arcy and Robbie Henshaw together in the midfield as the Athlone native dons the No13 shirt for the first time.
Despite a strong push from Munster teammate Felix Jones, Simon Zebo looks like making it three starts in November on the left wing, while Mike Ross will keep his remarkable record of being the only player to start every game under the New Zealander intact at tighthead.
Rhys Ruddock's performance as an emergency openside against the 'Boks looks likely to earn him another go in the No7 shirt, while Mike McCarthy's concussion is expected to see Dave Foley earn his second cap off the bench after an impressive debut last week.
Stuart Olding is understood to be pushing hard for a bench spot alongside Ian Madigan and Eoin Reddan, while the back-row cover comes down to a choice between Tommy O'Donnell, Dominic Ryan and Robbie Diack.
Possible Ireland team to face Australia on Saturday: R Kearney; T Bowe, R Henshaw, G D'Arcy, S Zebo; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, M Ross; D Toner, P O'Connell (capt); P O'Mahony, R Ruddock, J Heaslip.