Tuesday 20 March 2018

Wales onslaught signals bitter end for O'Driscoll

Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan look shocked after Ireland's Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat to Wales in Wellington yesterday. Photo: Cameron Spencer
Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan look shocked after Ireland's Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat to Wales in Wellington yesterday. Photo: Cameron Spencer

BRENDAN FANNING, in Wellington

Ireland fly home from New Zealand tomorrow after their charge towards a first ever World Cup semi-final appearance was halted emphatically by Wales in Wellington yesterday.

Having won a World Cup pool for the first time, Brian O'Driscoll's team were comprehensively beaten 22-10 by a younger, stronger side who will now play France in Auckland on Saturday in the last four. The other semi-final will be between the winners of this morning's ties between Australia and defending champions South Africa, and host nation New Zealand and Argentina.

Speaking after what was his last game in four World Cups dating back to 1999, O'Driscoll said he had no complaints.

"You're not promised anything," he said. "In the last four games we played we've produced two decent performances and two okay performances so you aren't owed anything.

"You have to go and earn everything that you get in Test rugby and today we were off the pace, and we go home as a result of that. It's a bitter disappointment but you have to suck it up when you haven't performed on a big stage. Collectively and personally, I won't get this opportunity again. That really sucks, but life goes on."

Declan Kidney, whose contract with the IRFU had been extended last season to midway in the cycle for the next tournament in England in 2015, said: "When you put your heart and soul into something and it doesn't work out, it's very disappointing. But they're good men. They'll bounce back."

The only time that Wales looked under threat in yet another game played in wet and windy conditions was when Keith Earls crossed for a try early in the second half, with Ronan O'Gara converting to tie the scores at 10-10. But a younger and better all round Welsh side pulled away to win comfortably in the end.

Their coach, and former Ireland coach, Warren Gatland, said he was not at all surprised by the quality of his team's performance. "We've got better and better as this competition has gone on," he says. "We've got a nice balance of go-forward and a balance of size and speed. And we've experience up front so we were very confident before the game -- I wouldn't say arrogant at all -- that we could win comfortably."

Wales scrumhalf Mike Phillips picked up the man of the match award, crowning his performance with the try that swung the game back in his side's favour. "I feel sorry for Ireland," said Phillips. "They are great guys, and I got to know them really well on the 2009 Lions tour. They are great people and I feel sorry for them, but one of us had to go home today and thankfully it wasn't us."

Less than a year ago, Wales were held 16-16 at home by Fiji, which underlines their startling resurgence during 2011 -- which could yet culminate in them becoming the greatest Welsh team of all time.

Gatland attributed his team's success to the amount of hard work they had done in preparing for the tournament.

"These guys went through some pain," he said. "And when you do that it brings a team together, and I think it's starting to come out with the youngsters expressing themselves and having no fear.

"And there's a nice mix with some older players."

Most of the Ireland squad will be given some time off before getting back into the Pro 12 ahead of the Heineken Cup which kicks off in a month's time.

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