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Plumtree: Irish pack are good but not great yet

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Ireland forwards coach John Plumtree. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile

Ireland forwards coach John Plumtree. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile

Ireland forwards coach John Plumtree. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile

FORWARDS coach John Plumtree sees Ireland's forwards as "good, but they're not great" yet. The New Zealander should know. He has spent most of his working life in New Zealand with Wellington and South Africa with Natal Sharks.

"In my mind, Irish forwards are good but they're not great and that was where we wanted to go," he said. "We have some really good individuals in that pack – probably every one of them – but to become great you've got to work hard together and that was the challenge I dished out to them."

Plumtree's points of reference could be seen as intimidating.

"If you look at the Springboks rugby over the years as well, they're always really formidable because of the presence they provide up front. Now they cope but they're not great," he said.

"But when Bakkies (Botha) was there and Victor Matfield was there – when they dominated that southern hemisphere scene for a little while – those guys were in their heyday.

"If you look at some of the individuals in our pack, they're really good individuals. But the challenge that I keep dishing out to them is to be able to dish it up as a group, every week for the next six weeks."

The straight-talking Kiwi was not about to butter anyone up when invited to name any one of Ireland's forwards as the best in their position in the world.

Best

"Yeah, I'm not sure we've got anyone who is the best in the world, but we've certainly got guys who are right up there," he said.

"For me, it's never been about the individual, in the pack particularly.

"Cian Healy is outstanding. Rory Best is an underrated player and, from hookers that I've worked with in the past, he's right up there in terms of his work-rate, which is huge.

"Mike Ross is stepping up and playing some really nice rugby and played really well last week.

"Dev Toner is a guy I was a little bit worried about when I first saw him, how he'd be able to play quality Test match rugby with a frame like that, but he's proving me wrong.

"Paul (O'Connell) doesn't need me to talk about him, he's an outstanding player," he said about his captain.

"Pete O'Mahony – I've got a lot of respect for in terms of his work-rate and accuracy in what he does and I can see why he leads Munster. Jamie Heaslip is an outstanding player and I'm really happy with the way Chris Henry has been playing for Ulster.

"We've got some quite nice depth coming through as well, guys like Rhys Ruddock, Dan (Tuohy) and Jack McGrath – Seán Cronin's having a good season. So they have all got something to add."

Plumtree makes no apologies for the demands he places. "That's the world that I come from," he said.


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