Rugby World Cup 2011: Irish undaunted for Aussie clash

USA winger Takudzwa Ngwenya in action against Irish skipper Brian O'Driscoll
Brian O'Driscoll and his Ireland colleagues struggled to subdue the USA on Sunday

Ireland team manager Paul McNaughton insists that they can regroup from the laboured opening win over the USA to beat Australia in Saturday's World Cup clash at Eden Park.

The Irish team's poor form in last month's warm-up games was repeated as they struggled to beat the USA 22-10.

However, McNaughton attempted to sound an upbeat note on Monday.

"The guys have played against Australia before. They know them. We have the ability and the team to beat them."

However, the reality of Sunday's unconvincing win over Eddie O'Sullivan's USA was that the Irish players had addressed none of the concerns that had hung over them following their troubled build-up to the tournament.

Behind dominance in the set-piece, Ireland's forwards - apart from Stephen Ferris - struggled badly at the breakdown and the backline again failed to fire.

The performance again demonstrated the importance of getting Sean O'Brien back in the starting line-up and McNaughton was able to report on Monday the fitness of all the squad - bar second-half replacement Tony Buckley who was scheduled to undergo a scan on a shoulder injury.

O'Brien looks certain to replace Shane Jennings - who struggled against the physical Americans - and coach Declan Kidney will hope that Jamie Heaslip can up his performance significantly from Sunday's match.

Kidney has some more thinking to do over his half-back selection with Ronan O'Gara and Eoin Reddan appearing to steady the Irish after their introductions on Sunday.

Fly-half Jonathan Sexton did not perform well against the USA and while scrum-half Murray did not have a bad game, Reddan may get the number nine jersey for next weekend's contest.

Andrew Trimble must also be a strong contender to return to the wing after being surprisingly omitted for the USA game.

Earls edged out Trimble for the wing berth for the World Cup opener and an option for Kidney would be to deploy the Munster man at full-back against Australia, with Geordan Murphy dropping out while another alternative is to recall Rob Kearney to the number 15 jersey.

Fit-again Cian Healy will, almost certainly, return at prop in place of Tom Court while Rory Best, despite scoring a try in a solid display, could be under pressure from Jerry Flannery for the hooker berth.

The Ireland management will be hoping that the expected changes will somehow stir the Irish into regaining the kind of form which denied England the Grand Slam six months ago.

"We have to play very well and better than we have done over the last four or five matches," added McNaughton.

"We'll have to improve on what we did yesterday, but do seem to produce our best when our backs are against the wall.

"There's a level of confidence that on our day, when we play well and fire on all cylinders, we can beat Australia."

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