Match Preview: Ireland change five ahead of Wallabies showdown

Sean Cronin and Jack Conan will make their first starts of the summer in Ireland’s series-decider against Australia in Sydney this weekend.

Sean Cronin and Jack Conan will make their first starts of the summer in Ireland’s series-decider against Australia in Sydney this weekend.

Head coach Joe Schmidt has made five changes to the side that defeated the Wallabies 26-21 in Melbourne on June 16 to tie up the series at 1-1 and keep alive their hopes of winning a series in Australia for the first time since 1979.

Leinster hooker Cronin comes into the front row, as does clubmate Jack McGrath, while Conan, another Leinsterman, is handed a start at No.8 this Saturday (kick-off 11:05am).

Jacob Stockdale, the 2018 NatWest Player of the Championship as Ireland won the Grand Slam earlier this year, also returns to the starting line-up, while Connacht’s Bundee Aki is handed the inside centre berth.

McGrath, Stockdale and Aki all featured in the first Test – an 18-9 loss to Australia in Brisbane on June 9 – but will return to the fray at the Allianz Stadium.

Schmidt has also shuffled his pack, with skipper Peter O’Mahony moving to openside flanker, CJ Stander starting at blindside and Robbie Henshaw lining up at outside centre.

Niall Scannell and Cian Healy drop to the bench while Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose and Dan Leavy all miss out through injury.   What they said   Cronin comes in as Ireland’s third starting hooker in as many Tests and Schmidt lifted the lid on why the Leinsterman got the nod, saying: “We’d love to see him do really well in the set-pieces.   “We obviously had Niall Scannell doing really well last week and Rob Herring has been super – I thought his performance off the bench last week was really good.   “The other thing from Sean is that dynamic ball-carry, that dynamic linespeed he can bring, and he’s an incredibly combative character, so we’re looking forward to seeing all those elements, really.”   Opposition   Having named the same side for the opening two Tests of the series, Australia head coach Michael Cheika has finally twisted, handing Lukhan Tui his first Wallabies start at blindside flanker.

David Pocock has been moved to No.8, with Caleb Timu dropping out of the squad, Nick Phipps starts at scrum-half in place of the injured Will Genia, while Ned Hanigan and Joe Powell are named as replacements.   Key stat   If the uncapped Ross Byrne makes his debut from the bench in the third Test, head coach Schmidt will have used all 32 members of his touring squad during this series.

Ireland squad for third Test against Australia  15. Rob Kearney (Leinster) 85 caps 14. Keith Earls (Munster) 69 caps 13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster) 35 caps 12. Bundee Aki (Connacht) 8 caps 11. Jacob Stockdale (Ulster) 10 caps 10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster) 75 caps 9. Conor Murray (Munster) 66 caps

1. Jack McGrath (Leinster) 49 caps 2. Sean Cronin (Leinster) 62 caps 3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster) 25 caps 4. Devin Toner (Leinster) 59 caps 5. James Ryan (Leinster) 10 caps 6. CJ Stander (Munster) 25 caps 7. Peter O’Mahony (Munster, captain) 49 caps 8. Jack Conan (Leinster) 8 caps

Replacements 16. Niall Scannell (Munster) 8 caps 17. Cian Healy (Leinster) 80 caps 18. John Ryan (Munster) 14 caps 19. Tadhg Beirne (Scarlets) 1 cap 20. Jordi Murphy (Leinster) 22 caps 21. Kieran Marmion (Connacht) 22 caps 22. Ross Byrne (Leinster) uncapped 23. Jordan Larmour (Leinster) 5 caps