Rugby Union: New captain wants to defy the odds

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It could be a case of make or break for the careers of the coaches of Ireland and Australia as they continue to try to find their best sides at Lansdowne Road today. With the professional era well under way results are even more important than they used to be and a coach's tenure may well turn out be a short one if they do not succeed.

Greg Smith has made six changes, two of them positional, to the Australia team that beat Scotland 29-19 a fortnight ago, while Murray Kidd retains just six of the Irish side who lost 40-25 to Western Samoa last week.

One gamble was too much for Smith. He again places David Campese on the bench, preferring a specialist centre on the wing. Against Scotland it was Tim Horan, today Jason Little takes the place of the great entertainer who was part of an Australian side that was just a couple of minutes away from a World Cup quarter-final defeat by an inspired Irish team in 1991.

That Australia can afford to leave out the record Test try-scorer was greeted with some irony by Kidd. "What a terrible position to be in to have so many gifted playing hanging around," the New Zealand-born coach said. "I don't know how they put up with it."

Ireland were hit by some spectacular Samoan tries but the uncertainty of their best line-up is reflected by the statistic that, until the scrum- half and captain Niall Hogan withdrew, the only man winning his first full cap was the 22-year-old winger Dominic Crotty.

Keith Wood, restored to the senior side for the first time since injuring his shoulder against Japan last year, takes over as captain having led Ireland A to an impressive victory over South Africa.

"People would expect Ireland to lose to Australia nine times out of 10," the Harlequins hooker said, "but there is no reason why this shouldn't be that one time when we beat them."

IRELAND: J Staples (Harlequins); J Topping (Ballymena), J Bell (Northampton), M McCall (Dungannon), D Crotty (Garryowen); P Burke (Bristol), S McIvor (Garryowen); N Popplewell (Newcastle), K Wood (Harlequins, capt), P Wallace (Saracens), G Fulcher (London Irish), J Davidson (London Irish), D Corkery (Bristol), A Foley (Shannon), D McBride (Malone). Replacements: M Field (Malone), D Humphreys (London Irish), B O'Meara (Cork Constitution), P Johns (Saracens), H Hurley (Moseley), A Clarke (Northampton).

AUSTRALIA: M Burke (NSW); J Little, D Herbert, T Horan (all Queensland), J Roff; D Knox, G Gregan (all ACT); D Crowley, M Foley (both Queensland), A Blades, W Waugh (both NSW), J Eales (Queensland, capt), D Manu, M Brial (both NSW), D Wilson (Queensland). Replacements: D Campese (NSW), P Howard (ACT), S Payne, B Robinson, A Heath (all NSW), M Caputo (ACT).

Referee: B Campsall (Eng).