O'Sullivan distracted by holes in the law and the crowd

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The Independent Online

The focus in the Australia camp is most definitely on today's big clash at Lansdowne Road, where the Wallabies will seek to end a rotten run of seven consecutive defeats. Unhappily, it seems that the Irish focus is anywhere but on the match; rather, the gaze appears to be dwelling on the previous week's match and that tackle by the New Zealand centre Ma'a Nonu. The coach Eddie O'Sullivan yesterday pronounced himself a confused man.

Nonu was cited for up-ending Gordon D'Arcy but went unpunished because he had not driven the Irish centre into the turf, and it was therefore not a spear tackle, but that decision clearly sits uneasily with O'Sullivan. The normally diplomatic O'Sullivan rounded on the game's disciplinary powers and fired a verbal salvo in their direction after what is seen as a let-off for the All Black centre.

O'Sullivan said: "I'm confused. I'm trying to get a balance to it. At the moment it would seem that the penalty for killing the ball at a ruck should be a yellow card, which is more harsh than turning a player upside down and dropping him on his head.

"If you look at it in that context then it is hard to know what to tell the players. It's confusing and we did say after the game last week that it is not something that we want to see in the game, as did Graham Henry to his credit. You wonder what players will take out of it now that nothing had happened other than a penalty at the time which is deemed to be the appropriate action, whereas you kill a ball at a ruck and you get a yellow card."

Another aspect of last week's Test, with a more obvious connection to today's match, further distracted O'Sullivan from the matter at hand, and that was the question of the North Terrace, which will remain empty and closed to the public for the remainder of the autumn at an estimated £300,000 cost to the Irish RFU.

"It's just weird looking down towards that end when there is nobody there, but the noise didn't seem any less last week. We just need to give the crowd an excuse by getting into the game and giving them something to cheer."

To do that Ireland will have to take a firm grip of the set-piece, which has caused Australia so much heartache thus far on their tour of Europe, and to dominate the line-out as only the men in green know how. They will also need to make their presence felt physically from the start, which is precisely what the Wallabies will be expecting.

George Gregan, their captain, who will win his 117th cap today when he leads his country out for the 49th time in a long and distinguished career, has no doubts at all what he can expect from the home team. The 32-year-old scrum-half said: "Ireland suffered a big loss last week so they will be looking to bounce back. They will start off fast and furiously and look to get stuck into us. Test matches are physical and we have to start well in this area. This is a collision sport, it is a big part of the game, it helps you gain momentum, it helps you gain possession."

And he had a warning for the Irish, just in case they become a little complacent about how poor the Aussies are up front. "From a set-piece point of view we have put a lot of work in again this week. Preparations have been outstanding and the application from everyone has been great."

As for the run of seven defeats, Gregan played it down. "I've not had a run as long as this in my career without a victory, but I do know that you are never too far away from turning that corner. We are aware we are not too far away from playing really well, so there is a sense of anticipation about the game - 2.30pm Saturday can't come around quick enough. We are going out there with a really positive attitude, that's the Australian way."

Whether Ireland let their opponents have their way will depend on whether they are gazing at the empty North Terrace pondering Nonu's let-off. But a focused Ireland will certainly not let off Australia.

Today's Lansdowne Road teams

Ireland

15 G Murphy (Leicester)

14 S Horgan (Leinster)

13 A Trimble (Ulster)

12 G D'Arcy (Leinster)

11 T Bowe (Ulster)

10 R O'Gara (Munster)

9 P Stringer (Munster)

1 M Horan (Munster)

2 S Byrne (Saracens)

3 J Hayes (Munster)

4 D O'Callaghan (Munster)

5 M O'Kelly (Leinster)

6 S Easterby (Llanelli, capt)

7 J O'Connor (Wasps)

8 D Leamy (Munster)

REPLACEMENTS: R Best, S Best, M McCullough, N Best, K Campbell, D Humphreys (all Ulster), G Dempsey (Leinster)

Australia

15 C Latham (Queensland)

14 M Gerrard (ACT)

13 L Tuqiri (NSW)

12 M Turinui (NSW)

11 D Mitchell (Queensland)

10 M Rogers (NSW)

9 G Gregan (ACT)

1 G Holmes (Queensland)

2 B Cannon (Western Force)

3 D Fitter (Western Force)

4 H McMeniman (Queensld)

5 N Sharpe (Western Force)

6 J Roe (Queensland)

7 P Waugh (NSW)

8 G Smith (ACT)

REPLACEMENTS: T Polota-Nau, A Baxter (both NSW), M Chisholm (ACT), S Fava, M Henjak (both Western Force), L Johansson (Queensland), W Sailor (NSW)

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