Ire­land’s lofty am­bi­tions fine with O’Driscoll

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - RUGBY AUTUMN INTERNATIONALS - GERRY THORN­LEY

Brian O’Driscoll played his own huge role in the trans­for­ma­tion of Ir­ish rugby, and all has changed, changed ut­terly since he first broke into the Ire­land team in 1999. Not the least of this is the men­tal­ity of the cur­rent squad com­pared to that of pre­vi­ous ones.

For ex­am­ple, hav­ing risen to the dizzy heights of num­ber two in the world, sev­eral of this squad have pub­licly stated their am­bi­tion to reach num­ber one.

“You have to have lofty am­bi­tions. To be num­ber one, you have to con­sis­tently beat all sides for three or four years 95 per cent of the time. We have only beaten New Zealand once. That is the re­al­ity. So if you want to have those lofty am­bi­tions, you have got to beat the All Blacks again this month,” says O’Driscoll.

“It is a very dif­fer­ent men­tal­ity to when I was 20/21-years-of-age coming into the en­vi­ron­ment, but they don’t know any dif­fer­ent. They are coming in think­ing ‘why can’t we be the best team in the world’? It is such an un-Ir­ish thing. We are not used to it. But this is new ground we are break­ing.”

This month was, he said, “all with one eye on the World Cup and want­ing to be world cham­pi­ons; not to get to a semi-fi­nal or a fi­nal, but ac­tu­ally win it”.

Not­ing how Ar­gentina have “con­versely been very good in at­tack, but very poor in de­fence” O’Driscoll added: “What I re­ally like about to­mor­row’s fix­ture is, how will they stretch us in the wide chan­nels. That’s been our Achilles heel. Any time that we’ve strug­gled over the past two years, we’ve got­ten nar­row.”

He saw signs of this against Italy last week, and added: “It’s a great test for us in ad­vance of the All Blacks game be­cause our per­ceived frail­ties will be tested.”

The game is also no­table for mark­ing the lat­est re­turn from in­jury of Seán O’Brien, and O’Driscoll main­tained that he is Ire­land’s first-choice seven.

“Dan Leavy had an in­cred­i­ble year last year, Jordi Mur­phy played re­ally well when he came in and Jose van der Flier has been re­ally good for Le­in­ster. But I think, when it comes down to it, Seán is a guy who has done it in the past for Joe when he’s been asked.

“He’s re­spected on the world stage. The Ki­wis re­ally re­spect him. He’s one player that could get into their team, with­out any doubt. They ad­mit that them­selves – and they don’t say that lightly.

“Hav­ing played with him, you have to have a real ap­pre­ci­a­tion for what he brings. He brings an ag­gres­sive­ness that very few oth­ers can match and there’s se­cu­rity in see­ing his name on the team sheet. I loved play­ing in the same team as Seán O’Brien. You just knew that there was no back­wards step. It’s chan­nelled ag­gres­sion that is very hard to repli­cate.

“Other play­ers might have bet­ter com­po­nents to their game here and there but on the whole, Seán is Ire­land’s num­ber seven in the World Cup if he can re­main fit.”

They are coming in think­ing why can’t we be the best team in the world?

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