After announcing the Ireland team and replacements for Friday’s crunch Pool D meeting with France, head coach Eddie O’Sullivan discussed the team selection, the form of the French and others issues with the media at the team hotel in Bordeaux. See below for what he had to say.
ON PICKING EOIN REDDAN AT SCRUM HALF AHEAD OF PETER STRINGER AND ISAAC BOSS:
“It was a tough one because Peter (Stringer) has been a stalwart of the team. But his form lately hasn’t been the best, he hasn’t been on top of his game. He’s been struggling a wee bit. Eoin (Reddan) came straight into the side based on the type of game he’s capable of playing. His form was good at the tail end of last season for Wasps. He fits the bill for this particular match (against France).
“We know what Peter brings to the party and he does it very well when he’s on top of his game but to be fair he hasn’t been on top of his game. He hasn’t been the old Peter Stringer. I know he’ll bounce back from this. It’s a tough call for a big game like this. But like every player he accepted that getting dropped comes with the territory. It’s often the making of a player.
“I know he’ll bounce back from this. He’s been the heartbeat of the side many times before and he will be again. He knows better than anybody that he wasn’t on top of his game.
“Isaac (Boss) is a different style of player and we’ve used him as an impact player. He can also cover a number of positions and has performed to a high level. Having an extra dimension to his game does help. It’s a tough call on Isaac because he’s a good squad player.”
ON GAVIN DUFFY COMING IN FOR GEORDAN MURPHY ON THE BENCH:
“Gavin Duffy comes in to cover the back three, a job usually done by Geordan (Murphy). But Geordan’s last few games against France haven’t been a happy hunting ground. They have not been good days. That’s my decision and I stand over that. Gavin can also cover the centre so this bench gives me more options.”
ON ANDREW TRIMBLE REPLACING DENIS HICKIE ON THE LEFT WING:
“I’m happy to have Andrew (Trimble) in. I wasn’t unhappy with Denis’ form but when it comes to a choice between two players you have to give the nod to one of them. Andrew has got it this time because he played well in the first game (against Namibia). I’m not unhappy with Denis, I just wanted Andrew in there.”
ON JERRY FLANNERY STARTING AT HOOKER:
“Jerry (Flannery) has been neck and neck with Rory Best for the last while. Rory was just holding him out. But there is no drama about Jerry coming in – he brings a robustness to the game that you want at hooker. He’s been chomping at the bit to get back into the side and this a big one for him.”
ON FRANCE’S 87-10 WIN OVER NAMIBIA LAST NIGHT:
“France did well so score many points. They were a bit shaky at the start but once they got into a rhythm they were very good. Namibia, to be fair, fought as much as they could but they were down to 14 men.
“Once France got going, it was brilliant ball in hand stuff. They were very aggressive and quick. That performance will have put them in a good frame of mind for Friday. France will be happier after their performance so that might be a bad thing for us, it might be a good thing.
“At the moment we need to concentrate on our own game and not get hung up on France. We have to get on with it – I’m not going to worry about (Bernard) Laporte’s team selection.”
ON HOW IMPORTANT FRIDAY’S GAME IS:
“It’s a big week, that’s for sure. I’m not sure if it’s my biggest week (as coach). Once France had lost to Argentina it was always going to be a pivotal match in the group. What’s been disappointing for us is we haven’t been in form before the game. The way we have been playing I understand why this could be described as a crisis.
“We know our standard has to go way up. We know what is needed to compete at this level. We have competed well at this level in the past. But our first two performances in the tournament, we were nowhere near that. We know that’s the benchmark we must reach. There’s no hiding from that.
“We know if we play poorly we’ll get well beaten. And I know what it’s like to play badly in Paris. We know what the challenge is this week.
“France have always been difficult to beat. We don’t beat them very often and our record in general against them is poor. It’s back down to performance and we know that if we reach a certain level of perormance we can win the game.”
ON THE USE OF THE REPLACEMENTS BENCH:
“We haven’t been able to bring players on. The sitaution against Georgia was we were on our gainline for the last 10 minutes so bringing a fresh player in who was not up to speed with the game was not a risk we were willing to take. The locks weren’t flagging anyway. Against Namibia, we looked like a team that needed more games. We wanted to give fellas time on the pitch.”
ON IF COMPLACENCY HAS BEEN AN ISSUE FOR THE SQUAD SO FAR:
“We’ve looked at the complacency issue because it is a reasonable thing to think when you’re playing below par like we are. To be fair to the players this a huge tournament. There’s no holding back. No one is taking anything for granted so I don’t think complacency is an issue.”