MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Ireland flyhalf Johnny Sexton has a point to prove in a must-win second test against Australia tomorrow after being restored to the starting side for the clash in Melbourne.
Sexton found himself riding the replacements bench in the 18-9 first test loss in Brisbane, where coach Joe Schmidt gave Joey Carbery the start as he builds depth ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup.
The addition of 32-year-old British and Irish Lions flyhalf Sexton for the clash at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium (kickoff 0805 GMT), however, should provide some calm assurance for an Ireland side rattled last week in Brisbane.
“He’s a world class player and he’s probably been the rock of their side for a number of years,” Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley said.
“He’s been the man who has led them to so much success over the last 15 to 18 months.
“We saw how threatening Sexton was when he came on, he made a big impact taking the ball to the line a bit more and backing his running.
“He found a few holes through the middle of our game.”
The resumption of Sexton’s scrumhalves partnership with Conor Murray should also create a more varied attacking game.
Penetrating the tough Wallabies defence is not the only issue Schmidt’s team had to work on this week after the breakdown was dominated by loose forward David Pocock at Lang Park.
His return from a year-long sabbatical was seen as a key factor in a Wallabies win that ended Ireland’s 12-match unbeaten run.
Pocock not only scored the pivotal try in the 72nd minute but his ability to turn over, or slow, the opposition ball clearly hampered Ireland’s inability to turn their normally clinical phase play into more points.
He could be in for a challenge with Ireland expected to force him to make the tackle rather than be the ‘second man in’.