The road to hell is paved with good intentions and a desire for Wallabies players to impact an increasing number of high-pressure moments, and giving away penalties as a result, has to be curbed or the team faces annihilation from the world’s best side this weekend.
Coach Dave Rennie’s team shifted their European tour to Dublin flattened by a horror show against Italy, a one-point loss highlighted by so much ill discipline they were penalised a mammoth 16 times. The home side also scored two tries while halfback Jake Gordon was off the field, yellow-carded for making illegal contact off the ball.
It marked a low point in a season littered with on-field issues, with 12 yellows and one red card dished out to the Wallabies this year – the most of any tier-one international side.
Ireland on the other hand, the No.1 team in world rugby, has recorded the second least amount of cards shown this year, just two, a stat that shows how discipline can be the difference when it matters most.
But half Nic White, who will return to the team after missing the Italy loss, was adamant the Wallabies were not just doing “silly” things to earn the ire of so many referees.
Instead, he said it was just the result of pressure, something he and his teammates would have to overcome in the cauldron of a packed Aviva Stadium.
“I think sometimes it’s easy to be disciplined when there’s not a whole lot of pressure on the side,” White said.
“You don’t feel desperate to make a difference or look for a quick fix.
“You’re seeing a lot of these penalties come from good intentions and guys trying to get off the line really quickly … but maybe going a bit too far.
“It’s not guys going out there and being silly. We were heading in the right direction but probably took a step back last weekend.
“We just spoke about trusting the system a little bit more and knowing if we stay in the fight long enough it will get there.”
Waratahs winger Mark Nawaqanitawase has earnt a second start for the blockbuster clash after making his debut in the loss to Italy, with Andrew Kellaway or Tom Wright to play on the other side.
Fly-half Bernard Foley, 33, and not knowing where his Wallabies future lies after his surprise call-up, it set to go head-to-head with talismanic Irish star Johnny Sexton, who will return for his 110th Test after recovering from a leg knock.
Sexton, 37, was this week nominated in the elite four-man field for World Rugby’s men’s player of the year, and Foley said Sexton’s form was proof positive that age was no barrier to success.
“It just shows that age is just a number, doesn’t it?,” Foley said.
“The thing about Johnny, he’s ultra-competitive and he must be doing everything right to keep himself at the top of his game.
“He’s looking after his body, he’s still got world-class game management and skills, so to see him doing it is great and I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“I‘ve got to try and make the most of every game and this one is a special one, testing yourself against the best in the world.”