Sport Rugby

Sunday 30 April 2017

O'Driscoll demands 'head-first' approach and '80-minute job'

Hugh Farrelly

AFTER nightmare starts against the All Blacks and New Zealand Maori over the last two weekends, Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll says it is absolutely crucial his team impose their game early on against Australia in today's Test at the Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane (11.0).

Declan Kidney's charges go into the game bidding to end a losing run of four matches and O'Driscoll believes they need to be positive from the first whistle to the end.

"Definitely trying to impose our game on them is a must," said O'Driscoll yesterday. "I think we've shown great components of it during the tour, but just in fits and starts. It has to be an 80-minute job.

"We need to start well and get a bit of consistency about our game and give them respect, but not too much respect. I would like to think there's enough enthusiasm in the guys who are getting their first starts or first starts for a while.

"Hopefully they're going to bring that energy and intensity that's needed. It's important to always respect your opposition but perhaps in the past we've respected southern hemisphere opposition too much and stood back. It's definitely head first here."

Benchmark

Rob Horne -- the young Wallaby who plays outside-centre today -- described the Irish captain as "the benchmark" for midfield play and the "the best centre of this generation" earlier this week, but O'Driscoll believes that will only heighten the Australian's desire to make a powerful statement.

"It's flattering to hear some nice things but you don't fall into that trap at the same time," said O'Driscoll.

"He's new blood and he's going to try and go out and prove his own point and reputations don't count for a huge amount when you go out in Test-match rugby. It's all about that moment.

"Similar to himself I'm sure, I will just try and go out and have the best possible game, individually, and hopefully collectively be a good member in the team."

O'Driscoll's counterpart -- and former Leinster team-mate -- Rocky Elsom knows a lot of the Irish team from first-hand experience and he is expecting an attacking approach from the visitors today.

"I'd be surprised if the game doesn't open up a bit," said the Wallabies captain.

"I think that's how they generally play against us.

"Because we both have similar styles it's probably easier for that to happen. Except for the game in 2006, I haven't really played against Ireland where it hasn't been a free-flowing, attacking game.

"I think I'm more aware of what these guys can do," added Elsom. "Shane (Jennings) is one bloke who often slips under the radar.

"His effectiveness often gets missed if you're watching the telecast but when you're playing with him or playing against him, you realise how much influence he can have on a match. And then obviously we're trying to stop that, so it does make it a little different."

Elsom also singled out another former Leinster team-mate, Jonathan Sexton, for special mention, saying he has been impressed with the out-half's development.

"He doesn't necessarily seem like the kind of guy who handles pressure well but when it comes down to it, he normally does," added the flanker.

"He slid in when Felipe (Contepomi) did his knee in during that semi-final (against Munster in 2009). He came straight off the bench and kicked a goal.

"You couldn't have imagined a more pressure-filled environment and he just slotted it right over and from then on he was fine. I'm sure he gets very nervous but when he gets out there he handles that really well.

"I think when you compare him and Ronan (O'Gara) you would say that with Jonny there, the game is a little bit more expansive."

After losing to England last weekend, the Australians are determined to get things back on track before the Tri Nations kicks off next month but are affected by injuries -- notably in the front five, with experienced lock Nathan Sharpe the latest to be ruled out with a back problem.

"It's very disappointing to lose Sharpie. He's been a rock in the side for a while but we've got Mitch Chapman (on the bench); he's the type of player everyone enjoys playing with and Mark Chisholm slides into the starting line-up.They'll get their chance to play a few more minutes and they will be pretty excited to do that.

"We recognise that last week our intensity was off and in Test-match rugby that's never acceptable."

Irish Independent

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