Wednesday 23 August 2017

O'Driscoll aiming to stop Irish rot

Victory all that matters for skipper as Kidney fears Ireland will be too eager to atone

Hugh Farrelly

FOR all the talk of Ireland needing to display verve, style and try-scoring ability against Samoa at the Aviva Stadium this afternoon, the priority for captain Brian O'Driscoll is very simple -- win.

It is something the Irish have not experienced since beating Wales in March and, four Test defeats later, there is a collective determination to stop the rot.

Admittedly, three of those losses have come against the Tri Nations (and the defeats to New Zealand and Australia occurred on Ireland's injury-ravaged summer tour) but 'enough is enough' was the message at yesterday's captain's run press conference.

O'Driscoll wins his 105th cap this afternoon and the 31-year-old said that while representing his country is always an honour, it is not enough any more to simply wear the jersey, it is about producing results while wearing it.

"In the early years it used to be about playing for Ireland, now it's about winning for Ireland," said O'Driscoll.

"Playing's not good enough any more -- you must experience those good feelings of what it's like in the dressing-room when you've won a tough Test match.

"Of course we are conscious of the run of defeats," added O'Driscoll. "Reference has been made to it by ourselves and it's definitely in our thoughts, but at the same time there's nothing we can do about the four Test defeats. We can only focus on Samoa."

Coach Declan Kidney revealed how the determination in the squad has been demonstrated by zeal in training and said the Irish need to channel that enthusiasm against a dangerous Samoan outfit.

"We know the areas where we need to improve but my concern is that the players are so keen to get it right," said Kidney.

Temper

"We must temper that keenness and believe in ourselves, stick to what we've done in training. There's nearly too much effort and that's the one thing we'll have to temper heading into the match.

"Samoa have come off the back of winning the Pacific Nations Cup with a lot of their current line-up missing. They're a side that comes together in World Cup year with the backing of International Rugby Board. They'll be very keen to start the autumn well and start building momentum."

The IRFU's ticketing policy meant barely 35,000 were present at Lansdowne Road last weekend when Ireland lost 23-21 to South Africa and there is a chance of around half that attendance this afternoon.

The FAI Cup final between Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers -- with non-premium level tickets priced between €5 and €10 -- is expected to draw upwards of 30,000 tomorrow, weather permitting and, while Aviva stadium director Martin Murphy was optimistic that the rugby could attract something similar, it is likely to be far less.

"This weekend, we've got two matches back-to-back and we're expecting something in the order of 20-30,000 for both of them," said Murphy.

However many are present to see Ireland today, O'Driscoll hopes the team can give them something to cheer about.

"It's about 80 minutes against Samoa this weekend and trying to right the wrongs of the previous few games where at times we've let ourselves down," said O'Driscoll.

Samoa have made a change to their bench, with hooker Ti'i Paulo replaced by Steve Fualau.

Paulo has been cited for two incidents of foul play during Tuesday night's clash against Connacht and is ineligible to play until next week's hearing.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport