This is the team Ireland should start against Australia in the Second Test
David Pocock and Israel Folau took Ireland to task, town, school and to the cleaners while they were at it. Time to fight back.
Ireland went from heavy favourites to mere, one-point favourites with the bookies after making six changes for the First Test against Australia. Johnny Sexton, Dan Leavy, Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy were all left out of the starting XV and injured captain Rory Best was on holidays earlier than he would have liked.
Still, Joe Schmidt's side were rightfully installed as favourites despite the fact that no Ireland team has won a Test match in Australia since 1979. Ireland are Grand Slam champions and had won 12 games over 16 months to climb to second in the world. Australia were very much a hot and cold outfit and they had a few injury issues of their own.
So where did it all go wrong for Ireland?
First off, Israel Folau dominated the skies in Melbourne. Ireland have caused havoc for many teams with their kicking game but Folau and Dane Haylett-Petty enjoyed themelves out there. One take from Folau, on 70 minutes, was as outrageous as you'll ever see in rugby.
The Australian scrum had been tipped to hold its own against Ireland but edged their duels slightly when both starting front rows were on. Few expected a front row containing Healy, Sean Cronin and Furlong to be rumbled so emphatically as they were in the 68th minute to concede a try that put them 11-9 behind.
Joey Carbery missed a very get-able penalty and Ireland looked out on their feet in the final 20 minutes but the breakdown was the main reason Australia won.
Michael Hooper, Caleb Timu and Pocock were sheer, brute nuisances and Ireland - through knock-ons, penalties and having the ball wrenched away - were turned over 21 times. Pocock may have conceded one penalty in front of his posts but it was his only blemish. He made hay at the breakdown and looked, at times, like a man against boys.
Following his side's 18-9 loss, Schmidt stressed that he would not veer from his plan to give some non-regulars game time against a tough, physical Australian side. He commented:
"I don't think we can afford to change some of the plans we got... We can't be caught with guys who don't have that experience and they haven't been in that white-hot atmosphere of playing big teams and being in that whole furnace of being pressed for time and space like we were tonight."
That being said, expect to see the return of the Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton 9/10 axis and expect a few more Leinster heads to get starts in Melbourne.
The starting XV we would go for, next weekend, sees Jordan Larmour and Garry Ringrose come into the backline and Healy, Cronin and Furlong given a chance to take out some frustration on the Wallabies pack.
James Ryan cannot be dropped as he's in too good of form but Devin Toner comes in to partner him. That frees up Tadhg Beirne for the biggest task of his career to date - start at blindside and help Ireland win the breakdown battle against the best in the game, Pocock. Beirne, as yet uncapped, was the turnover king at Scarlets for the past two seasons and played blindside when Aaron Shingler was off on Wales duty.
CJ Stander is being asked to step unto the breach again but he's getting Dan Leavy for company. The Leinster flanker is up there with Ryan as Ireland's best player over the past six months and has the physicality, skill, technique and bravado to back himself against the very best.
OUR IRELAND XV
Johnny Sexton (captain)
Replacements: Rob Herring, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Iain Henderson, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Joey Carbery, Andrew Conway.
Schmidt will name his team for the Second Test in the early hours of Thursday morning [Irish time]. It will be interesting to see what his XV will be to try and crack a 39-year-old nut.
The wait for a win Down Under goes on but this Ireland squad are capable of turning this series around.