Malcolm O’Kelly reckons Namibia and Georgia will try to put the heat on Ireland up front when they take on Eddie O’Sullivan’s side in Bordeaux over the next two weekends.
The Leinster lock, Ireland’s most-capped player with 87 appearances to date, has experience of facing both nations previously, with outings against Georgia in 1998 and 2002 and a start against the Namibians at the 2003 World Cup in Australia.
Both teams will have studied the recording of Ireland’s narrow warm-up win over Italy, during which the Irish forwards failed to fire as a collective unit. But O’Kelly, who is about to start his third World Cup campaign, reckons he and his colleagues can bounce back to boss both the battles in the loose and at set piece time against Pool D’s two lowest ranked teams.
“I’ve played Namibia and Georgia a good few times before. The Namibians four years ago in the World Cup…they provided us with an aggressive game, they were certainly up for it and won’t leave anything behind this weekend. Maybe what they lacked tactically back then, they will have gained this time around.
“The same with the Georgians. They’ll be mad up for it, taking us on up front. The last two games we didn’t go well up front and we’ll be looking to dominate there,” he said.
Despite requiring a last-gasp try from Ronan O’Gara to secure a 23-20 win over Italy, O’Kelly feels Ireland can justifiably take some positives from that recent encounter at Ravenhill.
“I was proud with the way we came back and won that game (against the Italians). We squandered a lot of chances in the first half, we had chances to pull away and we didn’t. Italy grew into the game, they were living off our mistakes, which was a bit of a disappointment for us.
“But at least we were trying put play together and we were making some inroads, so we have to look at those positives. Take something out of the game and the fact that we came back and won it.”
On where the Irish pack can improve, he added: “We obviously want to be more aggressive up front and be more consistent in the lineout and not lose as much possession as we did (against Italy).”
The Dubliner, who turned 33 in July, saw no action during the recent Six Nations championship, with the Paul O’Connell-Donncha O’Callaghan second row axis in dominant form.
O’Kelly returned for the summer tour to Argentina, gaining two more caps, and he admits despite the competition for starting places, Ireland’s second row fraternity for the World Cup has bonded well, with a new member in Munster back rower Alan Quinlan, who can also be used as an option in the second row.
“All the second rows are looking to start. ‘Quinny’ as well, he’s able to play back row and has added a string to his bow at second row. He’s very keen, he wants to get involved and he’s doing everything he can to catch up with the rest of us. We (the second rows) give him every bit of help we can. In the powerhouse we’re going alright.”