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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

O’Driscoll: Time To Throw Down A Marker

O’Driscoll: Time To Throw Down A Marker

Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll is adamant that his side have to make the most of tomorrow’s World Cup opener against Namibia and use it to put down a marker for the rest of the tournament.

While the draw for the World Cup’s pool stages was less than kind to Ireland, grouping them with two of the globe’s top six sides in France and Argentina, the fixture planning has been more favourable, offering them a chance to build some momentum with opening outings against lowly ranked duo Namibia and Georgia.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Namibia – his 39th game as Ireland’s skipper – O’Driscoll said: “To a point tomorrow is about making a statement. It’s a good chance to throw down a marker ahead of the tournament. From our point of view I think we’re fortunate to have the Namibia and Georgia games in the lead-up to the French game because we’re still not exactly where we want to be at.

“These first two games give us an opportunity to get there. We’d like to throw down a marker tomorrow and not just show everyone in our pool, but everyone in the competition – even against a perceived weaker nation – what we’re here to do.”

A runaway victory would give Ireland a significant boost and place them top of the Pool D table after Argentina’s tight win over France in Paris last night. It now seems the race to reach the knock-out stages will go down to the wire and O’Driscoll is confident that his side will be prepared for any scenario.

“It’s been said that we’re the best prepared Irish team for any World Cup and I’d go along with that. This my third World Cup and we’re the most prepared going over.

“But preparation counts for nothing if you don’t perform in the pool stages. Obviously with the opposition we’re facing it’d be potentially disastrous if we didn’t perform well.

“We’ll give Namibia the same respect as we do with any other team. You have to try and play these teams the same as you’d play any of the bigger sides. You have to give them the same respect,” he admitted.

“And respect can mean beating a team by a lot of points, not letting them off the hook. Australia scored 22 tries against Namibia in the last World Cup. The really good sides take the weaker nations apart. We want to be like that. And we want to make sure we start this tournament with a really big performance and a big result.”

Lock Paul O’Connell, who stood in for O’Driscoll as captain for the recent warm-up win over Italy, praised Ireland’s video analyst Mervyn Murphy for sourcing seven video tapes of the Namibians in action despite the lack of television coverage of their games.

The Irish players have watched a good number of clips of their opposite numbers and the patterns the Africans use and this groundwork has them in good steam for tomorrow, according to full-back Girvan Dempsey.

“We’re going to pay Namibia the utmost respect in terms of the homework we’ve done on them and the performance we want to put in. If we can put up a big score against them, that’s respect to them that we’re not taking them lightly.

“We looked at Australia’s big win over them four years ago and the Aussies then went on to make the final. It’s a case of that, if you can, we don’t want to let our foot off the gas, we want to keep scoring,” he insisted.

Whilst admitting that there was a good deal of rustiness shown in Ireland’s warm-up games, Dempsey and company knows there will be no room for lacklustre play over the course of their cup campaign.

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The Leinster stalwart added: “There was always going to be a bit of rustiness in the warm-up games, as in any pre-season game regardless of what level you’re playing at. But it stops now – we’re into the big end of things now. This is the World Cup, this is where we have to perform and you cannot afford to have any blips.”