'Young guns must lead from the front,' says Ronan O'Gara
RONAN O'GARA believes that Ireland must adopt a "club mentality" in order to arrest the alarming slide of Test results that is plaguing the side.
Since beating Italy in their second last game of the Six Nations, Ireland have lost to England, the Barbarians, New Zealand (three times) and last week to South Africa.
It makes for sober reflection, and with World Cup rankings at stake this weekend, the need for a win cannot be overstated.
Ireland's most recent notable victory came against Australia in last year's World Cup and, according to O'Gara, one of the keys to that win was the mood in the camp during the competition.
Players were comfortable in each other's company and no one was afraid to speak his mind.
"What you need is younger players having the confidence to come into the squad and give me a rollicking, or Brian (O'Driscoll) or Paulie (O'Connell) or Tommy (Bowe). That it doesn't matter who they're talking to or about, that they're confident it's going to be received in the right way," said O'Gara.
"It shouldn't matter if it's a young fella from Ulster or Connacht addressing an experienced player from Munster or Leinster. If he believes something needs to be said then he has to have the confidence and chance to say it.
"I see it with Munster – and I'm sure the lads from the other clubs would tell you the same – that when players get more familiar with each other, the bond grows stronger and the interaction is natural.
"It's more difficult in an Irish set-up because your time together is limited but that's the challenge.
"We had that during the World Cup and it was great for the team. And we spoke about it when we got to camp a couple of weeks ago
"With the successful clubs, you can bet your life the younger fellas are driving it on.
"When you're in that kind of environment over a prolonged period then it becomes second nature.
"We actually spoke about needing to make the most of our first week together when we came into camp, about how we couldn't spend it just getting to know each other, which is what made the result against South Africa so disappointing."