Ulster's Herring steps in as injury hits Irish Test hopes
Ulster's Rob Herring has been handed a late call-up to the Ireland squad for this morning's crucial deciding Test with Australia in Sydney (11am UK time).
The hooker has been in impressive form Down Under having started once and come off the bench once in the two Tests so far but had been set for a watching brief for the concluding clash.
A hamstring injury suffered by projected starter Sean Cronin means, however, that Herring will be promoted to the bench at the 11th hour with Niall Scannell taking the starting spot.
The Grand Slam champions haven't won a series in Australia since 1979 and stand-in skipper Peter O'Mahony - usual captain Rory Best is out injured - is determined to make a little more history in this most memorable of years.
"It's the last game of the season for us and this is a performance we're going to have to live with for a long time after tomorrow," he said.
"You don't get a chance for a long time, some of us might even never get another chance to put on an Irish jersey and I suppose that's just the beauty of international rugby.
"We'll finish up tomorrow and we have to live with it for however long it takes to get back into it.
"You've got to try and put in the best performance of your year and that starts with the training during the week and building to play the best game you can."
O’Mahony says a series win would rank alongside the Grand Slam and is expecting a difficult outing.
“We’ve played them two weeks in a row now and you become familiar and that probably makes this even more special and difficult at the same time,” said O’Mahony.
“Three games in a row, it’s difficult to find little lapses or areas you can go after. It’s the third time and there’s a good chance they’ve closed the door on 95% of stuff that we might have spotted in the first Test.
“So, it’s going to be one of the most difficult games you can probably play in.”
Sydney’s Allianz Stadium is sold out for the finale and Ireland can expect a vocal backing from a large number of locally-based emigrants who snapped up tickets early.
Wallabies hooker Michael Hooper is energised by the prospect of a full house.
“I am absolutely thrilled with it,” he said.
“We can come here and have a deciding game and it will be a fantastic spectacle. We have talked it up being a Grand Final, so yeah, it’s going to be tough on the field.
“But just the buzz around, you look at your phone and people are messaging in, excited about the game, trying to snag a ticket or two.
“That’s great for us as players and I am sure the people will enjoy it.”