Assistant coach Niall O’Donovan was quick to defend Ireland’s forwards when asked if the pack had been hurt by Georgia’s dominance up front during the closing stages of last weekend’s game in Bordeaux.
O’Donovan, who has coach the Irish pack since December 2001, said: “The players’ pride wasn’t hurt. I was talking to them. Can you tell me what they lost in that game? It’s the first I heard of hurt pride.
“If Georgia had scored in the last 10 minutes (when they attacked our try line repeatedly) then you could make a point of saying our pride would have been hurt.
“But it was a huge plus for us that we held out without conceding a score and a lesser pack might have given up in such circumstances.
“It is very difficult when a team has eight players round the ball, as they did in those closing minutes, and the fact that we held on will benefit us enormously going into the game with France,” he told a press conference at the team hotel.
O’Donovan gleaned plenty of positives from the 14-10 victory over Georgia, particularly from the pack’s defensive work on set piece ball.
“I took huge positives from the game. Just because they (Georgia) had the ball doesn’t mean our pack was doing poorly. We turned a lot of ball. In the last ten minutes, Georgia had a scrum five metres away from our line. We turned over the scrum. Then they had a lineout. We turned over the lineout and defended on the line.
“They’re dominating but they’re going nowhere in that sense.”
With some decent groundwork done in their opening two games, Ireland’s front eight, which includes seven Munster players for the tussle with France, are itching to get out on the Stade de France sward and play themselves into the World Cup quarter-finals.
O’Donovan added: “I think there is frustration to get out on the field and play France and I think that possibly came out in the last two games. There’s a frustration there in trying to go out and push themselves.
“It has been building since the draw was made. These were the two games – against France and Argentina – that we pencilled in as the ones who were going to decide the group.
“Even though we played poorly in the first two, we’re still in the same spot we hoped we would be coming into the French and Argentinian games. We still have to beat these two teams to qualify and get out of our group. Nothing has changed in that sense,” he admitted.
“You can see it in the guys’ body language during the week in training that they’re keen for this one, and keen to get on the field and get going.”