SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia scrumhalf Will Genia has very good reason not to underestimate the Ireland side the Wallabies will face in their three-test series opener in Brisbane this weekend and it has nothing to do with them being Six Nations champions.
Seven years ago at his first World Cup in New Zealand, Genia was in his pomp as a World Player of the Year nominee after playing an integral role in a maiden Super Rugby triumph for the Queensland Reds.
In a pool match at Eden Park, however, an underdog Irish team targeted him mercilessly and scored a huge upset, sending Australia on a path through the knockout stages that would have necessitated beating South Africa and New Zealand back-to-back.
They managed to complete the former but were no match for the hosts in the semi-finals, eventually settling for a third-place finish after beating Wales in the bronze final.
“When I look back on that game, we probably underestimated them,” Genia told reporters in Brisbane. “That was probably disrespectful and they taught us a lesson which was good for us. Coming into this game, we cannot underestimate them at all.”
Genia is one of four players left from the 2011 Australia side — flanker David Pocock was a late injury withdrawal from the match — and he is now very much aware of the threat the Irish pose, particularly in the halves combination.
“They are obviously number two in the world but more than that, just the level of rugby they have been playing,” the 30-year-old added.
“It is all about attrition with them. They are good at retaining possession but aside from that, you have got (flyhalf Jonny) Sexton who can sit back in the pocket, you have Conor Murray, whose box kicking puts pressure on you in that sense.
“They have got a pretty good game but more than anything, they really understand their game plan, and execute it really well.”
Genia is an almost certain starter against the Irish on his old hunting ground Lang Park on Saturday despite not having played any Super Rugby in a month since sustaining a knee injury.
His return for the Melbourne Rebels last weekend was postponed at the request of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and Genia said he was feeling “pretty good”.
“We’ve had a good couple of weeks just running, running and running,” he said. “Now it’s just about getting the footy down, finding some rhythm and getting good to go on Saturday.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by John O'Brien