IRELAND’S NOVEMBER SERIES

Well, Ireland start their November Series with a game against Samoa next Saturday, November 9th at 5.45. It will be a tough series, with matches against Austalia and New Zealand following on cosecutive Saturday’s.
 
This test series will be the first for the new Irish coach, Joe Schmidt. It will be a real indicator into his abilities as international coach and a big step-up from coaching Leinster.
 
His test squad have been rested from playing for their respective provinces (as per the IRFU agreement). Only Jonny Sexton is excluded from this agreement as he’s playing for Racing Metro.
 
(The IRFU have an agreement with Racing that Sexton will be rested for the 6 Nations games, but not for the November Series. The IRFU was hoping that Racing wouldn’t select Sexton in the run-up to the Series but they have picked him anyways.
 
Racing have played 11 games so far this season and Sexton has participated in almost all of them. He was selected for their match against Brive over the weekend and is therefore not likely to be picked against Samoa.
 
This is the problem with having players not subject to the IRFU. If more players start playing overseas, Ireland will not be able to call on its best players in matches such as the November Series and our results will suffer.)
 
Ireland have a very good record against Samoa, though we’ve only played them 5 times. Ireland have beaten Samoa in 4 of those 5 games, the closest result been 20-10. That was in the most recent game between the 2 sides, back in 2010.
 
Ireland’s only defeat against Samoa was in 1996, when Samoa won, 40-25. Samoa are a very tough team, though. Considered some of the hardest tacklers in the world. Having said that, I would rest some of our top players so they’ll be ready for the tests against Australia and New Zealand.
 
Ireland’s record against Australia isn’t very good. We’ve only won 9 of the 30 games between the 2 sides, having lost 20 and drawn 1. Our most recent game against Australia was of course in the World Cup, back in 2011, where we shocked them with a 16-5 victory in the pool stages.
 
Of course, some Irish players have faced Australia more recently than that, having been a part of the successful Lions series in the summer. Jonny Sexton, especially, who started all 3 tests.
 
Other Irish players who starred for the Lions include Paul O’Connell, Jamie Heaslip, Conor Murray, Tommy Bowe and Sean O’Brien. Brian O’Driscoll, of course, was dropped for that last Lions test, so he should get another crack at Australia.
 
Australia haven’t had a great season. After losing the Lions series, they changed coaches but there results didn’t improve. They only won 2 of their games in the Rugby Championship (formerly the Tri-Nations) and those were against Argentina, the weakest of the sides. And 1 victory was only by a point.
 
They were beaten twice by both South Africa and New Zealand in the Championship, some heavy defeats as well. They played a 3rd game against New Zealand (annual Bledisloe Cup game), where they did better but still lost.
 
Australia actually started their November Series against England last Saturday and lost, 20-13. This was a very close game but they still lost. Next week Australia will be playing Italy, a match which they will need to win quite comfortably if they are retain any sort of confidence.
 
Australia are actually playing 5 tests in November (against England, Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Wales). They’re playing the 4 countries that comprise the Lions, individually!
 
Australia really need to improve their results. They have a good chance against Italy and Scotland, and are quite even against us. Australia actually have a better record against Wales, having won all their recent games against Wales.
 
Australia will be making their 1st appearance in the new Aviva/Landsdowne Road Stadium. 
 
New Zealand remain the only team that Ireland have never beaten. The closest Ireland have come to a win is the 10-all draw in 1973 (this year is actually the 40th anniversary of that achievement).
 
The most recent game between the 2 sides was that terrible 60-0 loss, back in June of 2012. That was actually the worst result Ireland have suffered against the All Blacks. Of course, Ireland almost beat New Zealand the week before that game.
 
Ireland’s defeats to New Zealand have been pretty heavy in recent years and the All Blacks are on a real roll at the moment. So far this year, New Zealand have beaten France in a 3-test series in the summer.
 
Then New Zealand were clear winners of the Rugby Championship, winning all 6 games and been way on top with 28 points (2nd placed South Africa had 19 points).
 
Then New Zealand beat Australia 41-33 to win the Bledisloe Cup and on Saturday they started their November Series with a win against Japan, 54-6. They have 2 games, against France and England, before they face us on the 25th.
 
This test will be Brian O’Driscoll’s last chance to beat New Zealand. The closest Ireland have come to a win is a moral victory, the greatest hope is that we don’t embarass ourselves (that 60-0 loss was an embarrasment). This needs to change.

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