Schmidt: Our whole season is on the line
Joe Schmidt has admitted that a series defeat to Australia would tarnish an historically successful season.
Ireland are staring down the barrel of a series defeat if they cannot reverse last weekend's 18-9 loss to the Wallabies in Brisbane and, despite winning the Grand Slam, a second loss tomorrow would send them into the summer with regrets.
The coach has made eight changes to his starting XV and by the end of tomorrow's match in Melbourne he is likely to have played everyone on tour bar Ross Byrne, with Tadhg Beirne in line for a first cap off the bench. Michael Cheika has named an unchanged team.
While a host of the Grand Slam team return, including Johnny Sexton, the biggest call is the inclusion of Niall Scannell at hooker ahead of Seán Cronin as Ireland look to set the tone at scrum time.
The focus is entirely on taking the series to a Sydney decider and Schmidt conceded that anything less would tarnish this year's achievements.
"Everything affects it," he admitted. "You are as good as your last game. It hurts."