Ireland have never had it so good: Carr
NIGEL Carr has given the current Irish team an unqualified endorsement by lauding them as the most consistent side ever to have represented Ireland.
Capped 11 times before injuries sustained in an IRA car bomb as he was on his way to training in Dublin for the 1987 World Cup ended his career, Carr is magnanimous in acknowledging the achievements of the Brian O'Driscoll-captained Irish.
Having seen them dwarf anything Ireland have ever done before by winning Triple Crowns in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2009 -- the latter as part of a Grand Slam -- Carr has no doubt that Declan Kidney's men can make it five in seven seasons.
"They have been excellent over the past few years, culminating in last season's success," he said.
"At the start of the season there were reasonable hopes of another Grand Slam and although that has gone you would have to say they are in with a very good chance of another Triple Crown.
"The victory against England maybe wasn't the most convincing, but given that it looked like they might lose that match towards the end, what mattered was that they managed to bounce back from the French defeat.
"I think that's the difference between this side and previous Irish sides. That level of consistency is something we've not had before.
"With that core of Munster men in particular they have a never say die attitude. That has seen them pull matches out of the fire and get a late victory.
"In trying to win a Triple Crown, England at Twickenham is always going to be one of the more difficult tests.
"Winning a Grand Slam is always going to be hard, of course, particularly in a season when you have to play France in Paris. That has always proved to be tremendously difficult for us. We were well beaten there, which is why it was important that we recovered against England."
He believes this weekend's game against Wales will be very different to the February 27 Twickenham clash.
"Wales are a very exciting side so I think we could see a different sort of Irish performance to the one against England. At Twickenham we tried to move the ball a bit, while the English tried to dominate up front," he pointed out.
"The Welsh like moving the ball, so on this occasion Ireland may try to keep things a little tighter. I've enjoyed the series so far and I'm really looking forward to this one."
Expressing the hope that skipper Brian O'Driscoll, who wins his 100th cap this weekend, has recovered fully from the blow to the head which saw him substituted just beyond the hour-mark against England, he said: "I'm slightly surprised that he's back because he looked to be in a bad way.
"Jonathan Sexton was pointing out to the referee that O'Driscoll was all over the place, so I can only hope he's ready.
"He has been a tremendous player over the years for Ireland and he continues to be a great influence.
"While he may have lost a little of his pace his experience counts for a lot. He still brings a huge amount to the side."
Carr's starting line-up included Rory Best and Stephen Ferris, but beyond that he was not optimistic about Ulster players' prospects.
"Andrew Trimble was great against Bath in the Heineken Cup, but Keith Earls didn't do anything wrong against England so I'd be very surprised if he wasn't in," was his forecast.
Nor was he any more upbeat about Paddy Wallace's chances of ousting Gordon D'Arcy from inside centre.
"I can't see that happening," he predicted.
Carr also has misgivings about the full-back slot, his fear being that Geordan Murphy is not the player he was several years ago.
"We've come to expect pretty high standards and certainly in years gone past he was up at that level," he said.
"While he didn't have a bad game against England, he wasn't quite up to that mark. After such a long lay-off, I suppose it could just be that he needed a little longer to acclimatise to the game at international level.
"And he could just produce another great game as he has in years past.
"Let's hope so; we really don't have too many options there."
Source: Belfast Telegraph