See below for quotes from Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll ahead of Saturday’s crunch Six Nations clash with England.
ON MISSING OUT AGAINST FRANCE:
“I was very close (to playing). It was one of the more difficult decisions to be made, but I think it was the right one. It was too much of a risk. I could have been doing more damage to it (hamstring), so it was decided after a hard fitness test on Friday that I was better off with another fortnight off.”
ON THE DEFEAT TO FRANCE:
“In the first half we went in two points down and we hadn’t played any rugby, so there was a reason not to worry. I knew, at some stage, we were probably going to put together some phases and play the way we can.
“It was one of those tough games you have to dog out. For 78 minutes things were going reasonably well. It was always only ever going to be a one-score game. As it worked it, it worked against us.”
ON THE REST OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP:
“You could look at the loss to France a few different ways. There isn’t still the hype of our Grand Slam hopes that we openly spoke about before the competition kicked off.
“So I suppose there is less pressure on us from that point of view.
“On the flip side we’ve only got two games at Croke Park this year and we’ve lost the first of them so we don’t want the inaugural year at Croke Park to end ‘two games, two losses.’”
ON JONNY WILKINSON’S COMEBACK:
“Jonny seems to have picked up where he left off the last time he was in an English jersey. He controls things so well and he’s a pivotal character – that’s the understatement of the year.
“But he’s massively important to them and I don’t envisage it being any different this time around.
“His performance against Scotland wasn’t too shabby. I think you’ve got to give him time coming back into international rugby. Three years in the wilderness – it’s going to take its toll and that’s why I though his performance against Scotland was all the more remarkable.
“It shows you how mentally tough the guy must be to come in and put in a performance under the pressure he must have been under.”
ON FACING ANDY FARRELL:
“Andy hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s suited to the style of play as a second receiver – Andy and Wilkinson like to mix things up.
“They’re both excellent passers of the ball and that gives England great width. Andy has a strong defensive game and has a lot of control.
“Italy was only his second rugby union international and he will only get better from here.”