MELBOURNE: Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan shook his head and tried to suppress his laughter yesterday when he discovered his side had again swapped places with Australia on the world rankings.
Yesterday's announcement from the International Rugby Board (IRB) drew immediate criticism in Australia after the World Cup defending champions had flexed their muscles with a record 142-0 thumping of 25th-ranked Namibia last week.
Ireland beat seventh-ranked Argentina 16-15 in their pool A match in Adelaide on Sunday, jumping to third on the rankings below England and New Zealand.
“When did this change again? I can't take this pressure,” O'Sullivan joked with reporters in Melbourne yesterday.
“This is musical chairs. At 12 o'clock last night, Australia were better than us. At 12 o'clock today, we're better than Australia. I rest my case.”
The Wallabies will be aiming for two successive victories over the Irish when they host captain Keith Wood's team at Docklands Stadium on Saturday. The losers will face the formidable France in a quarter-final in Melbourne on Nov 9.
Ireland have delayed naming their team until tomorrow to allow the players to recover from a bruising match against the Pumas, O'Sullivan said.
Flanker David Wallace, who has 18 caps, joined the squad mid-way through a training session in Melbourne yesterday. The 27-year-old flew out from Ireland to replace fellow Munster backrower Alan Quinlan, who hurt his shoulder against Argentina.
O'Sullivan said he expected number eight Victor Costello, who has a thigh injury, and centre Kevin Maggs, who has an ankle problem, to be fit.
Australia and Ireland, both on 14 points from three matches, have already qualified for the quarter-finals as the top two teams in pool A.
“We have to give it our best shot and try to get past Australia and make a different landscape for ourselves going into the quarter-final,” O'Sullivan said of Ireland's chance to avoid France next week by topping pool A.
“The quarter-final is the key game, it's the knockout stage.
“It doesn't mean we won't be trying any less (against Australia), but it might just colour your thinking on selection. You wouldn't want to risk anybody.”
O'Sullivan said his side would draw confidence from their 18-9 win over the Wallabies in November last year, although they lost 45-16 earlier this year.
“We understand if we get it right on the day we can give Australia a hell of a game but if we get it wrong we could get a pounding and we experienced that in Perth in June,” he said. – Reuters