Saturday 21 September 2019

O'Shea: Wins will come if we keep doing things right

Conor O'Shea Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Conor O'Shea Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Conor O'Shea will be emotional this week as he returns to Dublin but only when it matters.

"It's my mum's birthday this week," he smiles. "And she's going to kill me because I've been telling everyone about it!

"It's going to be incredible for me going to the Aviva but rugby is not about coaches, it is about players. I hope to meet Joe Schmidt too - but only on Monday after the game when I will ask him what weaknesses he saw in our side."

He will catch up with friends and family but only when his schedule allows; this is a working week and his aim is to see his Italian side defeat Ireland for the first time in an away Six Nations game.

If that sounds unrealistic, then it is. Even the former Irish full-back, who featured in Ireland's first Six Nations game - his last - against England, knows it.

"If both teams play to their potential, Ireland will win. It's as simple as that. But we're here to win. I want to win all the time, even if I'm playing against my kids.

"We want to score tries and we don't want to die wondering. We're playing away from home but that is only an excuse. A pitch is a pitch and a ball is a ball.

"But if I tell my team to charge over the barricades and that will be enough for us to win, my team will laugh at me. We need to play to our potential and that is all that I want us to do. Sport is funny and it turns on small things.

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"We will have to work unbelievably hard. We have to celebrate little wins. We are getting there. We were ambitious and physical last week and hopefully that will continue.

"We've already played England but Ireland are the form team of the two for me. Ireland could easily have won 22-6 away from home if Johnny gets his last penalty and France try to chase.

"Ireland are a great side, France had to make over 250 tackles. They will want to tire us out, challenge us aerially.

"Joe has an incredible group of players and finishers to come off the bench. We'll give it absolutely everything we have.

"We want to do something special in the short-term but also build depth. We are missing a lot of players but we are making changes and I wouldn't be speaking energetically if I didn't see a future.

"People can get sick of me talking about performances and turf me out, fine. That's why I'll never do jobs in Ireland.

"The wins will come if we keep doing things right, getting the structures right. I can see us improving."

Whatever about emotion, neither has O'Shea indulged in romanticism on his return to the old sod, with Dubliner Ian McKinley denied a dream Six Nations debut.

Another player who is taking advantage of world rugby residency laws - albeit McKinley was denied the chance to resume rugby here when initially trialling goggles to protect a blinded eye - the former Leinster out-half has travelled but will be sprung only in emergency.

"The romance is there but he is not here to be picked on romance," said O'Shea. "He has been unbelievable for us this week, he is pushing things on. He is here for a reason and he may still have to come on and do a job if things go wrong.

"He was disappointed because he wanted to play. I knew it would mean a lot to him. But he is a rugby player, not a story and he wants to be picked because he is the number-one player and not the story.

"Sport is full of romance but the hard-nosed side of it is the guy who has the jersey is playing well and the next guy in is a points machine.

"I would have loved to pick him, I wanted to pick him in so many ways but what message does that send to other players?

"It's an amazing story, he is a force of nature. I'm sure this setback will steel him even further and given the way he has responded to set-backs in the past, I am sure he will respond."

Jordan Larmour will feature at some stage and O'Shea is as excited as every other Irish rugby fan at the winger's potential.

"I can't wait to see him but I hope he doesn't do too well. He is box office, isn't he? To have that sort of ability.

"I'd love to have been a full-back who could step off both feet and have gas over 70 metres. He reminds me of a young Christian Cullen.

"I couldn't even step off one foot, I just ran straight the whole time! We have a good young full-back too though who was playing junior rugby last year."

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