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O’Sullivan Fully Focused On Ending Paris Drought

O’Sullivan Fully Focused On Ending Paris Drought

Eddie O’Sullivan is well used to operating in a pressure cooker environment. The cauldron of Stade de France awaits him and his squad on Saturday and the Ireland coach will not let media criticism interfere with his goal of improving Ireland’s record of just one win in Paris since 1972.

The men in green’s last success over the hosts in the French capital was back in 2000 when a Brian O’Driscoll try hat-trick inspired his side to a 27-25 victory.

Eight years on and after a misfiring World Cup display and last week’s laboured win over Italy, the heat is on for O’Sullivan’s troops to perform to the best of their ability in Paris.

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But batting away any outside speculation about him and his job, the Corkman conceded: “You’re always under pressure in the Six Nations because it’s the competition we use as our benchmark. It’s a battle of intensity and endurance so of course there’s pressure, but it’s the same every year.

“I know there’s talking going on outside camp about other things but I can’t but into that – it’s not going to make me do a better job.

“In fact, it would detract from my job. All that matters is what happens inside the camp and we want a big Six Nations.

“We got over the hurdle against Italy. It was ugly, but we still got over it. I’ll just stay busy and get on with my work. There is only time for work in the Six Nations,” he added.

“From the moment you wake up to putting your head down, there is always something going on, so you just get on with it.

“Putting time and energy into thinking about these things is wasted time and energy. You can’t control what people write or say. People have opinions but it’s only talk at the end of the day.”

O’Sullivan has brought three new faces into his team for the clash with France – Leinster trio Rob Kearney, Bernard Jackman and Jamie Heaslip will each make their first Six Nations start this weekend.

Explaining his selection policy for the French game, the Irish coach said: “The three lads came off the bench (against Italy) into the cauldron of Six Nations rugby and did well. They offer us a different dynamic.

“It’s good to give them a shot against France. They’ve put themselves in the frame but now the pressure is on to deliver on their form. They’re up for it and that’s why I put them in there.

“I looked at the performance of Jackman and Heaslip when they came off the bench and balanced that against what they might bring to the game in Paris and decided to give them a chance.

“Carrying the football has been one of the highlights of their game with Leinster. Going to Paris with some extra ball carriers is a good thing. I think it’s fair to give them a start.

“There’s a big difference between coming off the bench in a Six Nations game and starting a Six Nations game. It’s a reward for that. It’s the same with Rob Kearney – he came off the bench much earlier against Italy and also did very well.”

Asked about whether he contemplated bringing in-form Ulster winger Tommy Bowe into the side instead of promoting Kearney from the bench, he replied: “There were no grounds for dropping Rob so that was a straightforward selection. I’m not saying Tommy hasn’t put up his hand but if you put him in there, somebody else loses out.”

Meanwhile, one of the recommendations that came out of the Genesis report was the appointment of ‘a dedicated backs coach to strengthen the Irish management team.’

Explaining his views on that appointment and shrugging off the suggestion that the Irish backs need a specialist coach sooner rather than later, O’Sullivan admitted: “We will bring a backs coach in but it’s a not a problem at the moment. I thought the backs played well against Italy. We created opportunities, we just didn’t finish them.

“We’ll bring someone in when we get the right person. If we’d set the timeline of the Six Nations that would have put us under terrible pressure to find the right person.

“That would have been a backwards rather than forwards step. We want a fresh person with a fresh way of looking at things, but it has to be the right person.

“I haven’t identified one yet. It’s not at the top of my list right now but when the Six Nations is over it will be a priority.”