18/09/2002. Irish captain Keith Wood is looking forward to what he says will be ” a cracking ocasion” when Ireland take on Russia in Krasnoyarsk on Saturday.
The Irish captain, back in the side after missing the game against Romania because of his brother’s death, was speaking at the press confereence in Greystones RFC after the team had been announced.
” I imagine it should be fairly raucous. I think it’ll be a cracking occasion, first opportunity for Russia to host a major side in a place where they take their rugby pretty seriously. It’s a great occasion.”
” Some of the facilities may not be up to what we’re used to but no harm getting a kick in the backside from time to time. The history of us being somewhat pampered is right on key there. It’s something to look forward to. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s an opportunity to play somewhere you’ll never play again. I can’t think personally of a reason why I’d go there on holiday, It doesn’t seem from what I’ve read that it’s a place that would trigger a whole lot of interest as a holiday destination. So I think it’s something to enjoy, it’ll be an experience. It’ll be what we make of it.”
Wood was quick to dismiss the notion that Ireland’s visit there, in the context of the game being more global, would do something for rugby in Russia.
” I suppose that would be the ideal line to say as media spin but that’s not what it’s about in any way, shape or form. We’re going over there to qualify for the World Cup and it’s as plain and as simple as that. If there are knock on effects, and they are beneficial to Russia and to rugby in general, of course that’s good but that’s not why we’re going there.”
” I think they’ll play a fairly similar style to Romania. One of the things that has changed and Eddie spoke about it, is the fact that all the rugby games now tend to be credibly physical so it doesn’t matter how you’re playing, how well you’re playing, you’re going to get batted around left right and center. It’s part and parcel, it’ll be very tough.”
Like the rest of the Irish side, Brian O’Driscoll admitted that he knew little or nothing about the Russian side other than what they had seen on video.
“I must admit I don’t know a lot about about them. But I expect, as has been already said they’ll be in much the same vein as Romania. So that game should prove very useful in this context. We played very poorly in the second half and ok in the first. Far too many errors, turnovers, missed tackles. Exactly what we didn’t want, we wanted a solid performance, no frills and we didn’t get that, so perhaps we put ourselves under a little bit of pressure, That’s our own doing. It’s our opportunity again to put it right on Saturday.”
And coach Eddie O’Sullivan will be wary of the task his side faces.
” We think we know what they’re about but when we get there on Saturday we’ll see what they’re really about.”
” They have a very pacey full-back, quite a big athletic back-row with South African influence in it, they can kick their points as well. There’s not too much wrong with them as a team to be fair. They’re well organized.”
The game kicks off at 11.am Irish time and Michael Corcoran of RTE Radio will giving commentary.