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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Old head Murray can guide new-look Ireland in Australia

Joey Carbery starts at fly-half with Sexton on the bench

Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray
1 of 1

Sky Sports Action, 11am Saturday

Under coach Joe Schmidt Ireland have continued to push the bar higher and higher to the point where they were favourites this week to beat the Wallabies in Australia, something they have not achieved since 1979.

The market has moved against them slightly since Schmidt named his team and most firms now make it a scratch game, with Ireland still fractional favourites in places.

The force behind that shift must have been Schmidt's decision to start Joey Carbery at fly-half in place of long-time first-choice pick Johnny Sexton, who is among the replacements.

Ireland go into the game as Grand Slam champions and under Schmidt they are finding their place as genuine contenders to the southern-hemisphere heavyweights.

In the June series of 2016 they won in South Africa for the first time and then followed up by stunning the All Blacks in Chicago in the autumn. They beat the Springboks again plus Argentina at home in the autumn and are on a run of 12 consecutive victories, a run stretching back to March 2017.

Australia have been a frustrating team to follow, capable of brilliance on their day but so often unable to sustain or replicate it. They so nearly beat the All Blacks in Dunedin last year, storming to a 17-0 lead then snatching back the lead with minutes to go before shipping a last-gasp try.

Often their downfall has been in the set-piece but they are up against an Ireland unit missing injured skipper Rory Best plus props Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong as well as the towering Devin Toner in the line-out, all of whom have been rested.

Schmidt sees this tour as part of the building process, ensuring his squad has the resources to cope with defending their Six Nations crown and a world cup next year, hence the decision to start Carbery and the revelation that the 22-year-old is being sent out to prove he can run the show.

The teams are so tantalisingly poised in the betting that picking a winner is a hugely difficult call but there looks to be value in backing Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray to get on the scoresheet.

The Irish gameplan is often based on kicks for territory and a driving game from their forwards, and there may well be opportunities for Murray to take in the initiative from his less experienced half-back partner.

Recommendation
C Murray to score a try
1pt 3-1 bet365


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Ireland go into the game as Grand Slam champions and under Schmidt are finding their place as genuine contenders to the southern hemisphere giants
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