Ireland can deny Australia famous victory
What a thrilling game we look to have ahead of us as even money chance Australia, fresh from victory over England at Twickenham face a sterner test at Croke Park taking on Six Nations champions and 4/5 shots Ireland.
Having been thoroughly worked over in the Tri Nations by South Africa and New Zealand, victory against Martin Johnson's side last week will restore some much needed confidence to the Wallabies side, in particular the performances of their back line will have delighted coach Robbie Deans.
Adam Ashley - Cooper (16/1 for first try) looked excellent at full back, Digby Ioane (16/1) and Quade Cooper (16/1) made up admirably for the missing Stirling Mortlock in the centres, Matt Giteau (16/1) was breath taking as usual but it was young scrum-half Will Genia (20/1) who grabbed the headlines as a man who looks like stepping in to the huge shoes of George Gregan.
Despite this though Australia still showed weakness in the line out which is an area no doubt Ireland will look to punish them although their pack is starting to look more organised. The home side too pack plenty of punch in their back line with Brian O'Driscoll (14/1) earning his 100th Test cap this weekend and he still carries as much of a threat now as he did at the start of his career.
Luke Fitzgerald (12/1) and Tommy Bowe (12/1) both carry a significant threat from the wings, while Keith Earls (14/1) and Rob Kearney (16/1) both played well in the Lions tour this year while Ronan O'Gara (20/1) can still kick teams in to submission on his day, while Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan will look to exploit the Wallabies deficiencies at the throw-ins.
History is on Australia's side but Ireland won the last encounter in Dublin 21 points to six which was their biggest ever victory over the Wallabies but this looks like it will be much closer, a thought with which the handicap agrees as it has Ireland giving up just one point at odds of 10/11 and as it is so close, some may be drawn to the draw at 16/1.
The winning margin is unlikely to be large and it is not surprising to see a winning margin of 1-5 points to either side is at odds of 9/2, while 6-10 points is 11/2 in favour of Ireland or 6/1 for Australia.
Judging by Australia's poor first half showing against England, a ferocious Croke Park may see them take time to find their feet and Ireland on the half time betting at 10/11 looks a good bet.
A fascinating encounter which hinges on so many variables, like if O'Gara brings his kicking boots Australia will be in trouble but otherwise the likes of Giteau can nullify the threat and Ashley - Cooper will relish running ball back at the Irish defence.
IF Australia can sort their line out problems then they can challenge a lot more fiercely up front but otherwise Ireland can get plenty of quick ball to the backs and the Wallabies will be on the back foot. Then of course who will win the tactical battle in the backs, the plucky youth of Australia or the experience of Ireland?
Due to home advantage and Ireland's strong looking experienced side, slight preference goes to Ireland to take this and prevent Australia completing a Grand Slam over all the home nations.
Ireland are the toughest the Aussies will have come up against and while they created a lot against England, their apparent failure to convert chances could cost them here.
Ireland on the half time betting at 10/11 looks the call, along with an Irish victory by 6-10 points at 11/2 to confirm what most suspect, that Ireland are by far the best home nation at the moment.