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Countdown To Croker: Three Days To Go

Countdown To Croker: Three Days To Go

…Horan Heartened By Scrum’s Solidity…Williams Relishing Croke Park Test…O’Driscoll Braced For ‘Huge Occasion’…Say What?…Numbers Game…

HORAN HEARTENED BY SCRUM’S SOLIDITY: Ireland’s scrum has been one of the most pleasing aspects of their performances to date in the 2008 Six Nations.

The Irish forwards have been solid on their own ball – securing all 19 of their own put-ins against Italy, France and Scotland. They have also put pressure on the French and Scots’ ball in the latter stages of their games.

Loosehead prop Marcus Horan, who scored a try last time out against Scotland, said of Ireland’s efforts in the set piece: “For us, I suppose, it’s about building on what we’ve achieved so far.
“I don’t think we’ll go shouting from the rooftops about what we’ve done in the scrum, because it only takes one or two bad scrums in a game to bring you back down to earth.

“We don’t want to get complacent about it. We’ve just got to build on what we’ve done and improve and use it as an attacking option for the team.

“For us, it’s a great way to attack but also a great way to disrupt another team’s play and their momentum.

“It is a key area and I think we’ve seen how it can effect the game so it’s something we’re definitely working on (for the Wales game),” he added.

To listen to Marcus Horan’s interview in full, please click here.

WILLIAMS RELISHING CROKE PARK TEST: Saturday’s clash between Ireland and Wales will be a milestone game for Wales flanker Martyn Williams.

The 32-year-old, who was convinced by new Welsh coach Warren Gatland to end his brief international retirement, will be winning his 80th cap on his first ever visit to Croke Park.

He admitted: “I am looking forward to the Croke Park experience. I’ve been told it is an awesome place to go. It is always a big weekend in Dublin.

“We have come second best there over the last three visits by a long margin and they seem to have held something over us.

“So we know this is going to be the toughest test so far and Ireland have got to be favourites.”

Williams is wary of the improvement Ireland have shown in their overall game in recent weeks and, like Wales, they seem to be returning to form after a disappointing World Cup.

“Ireland are a form side at the moment because they played well in the second half against France and disposed quite easily of Scotland,” explained the Cardiff Blues clubman.

“They are world class on their day and they are a group who have been together for seven or eight years.

“They know each other’s game inside out and have a lot of self belief that they can beat anybody, especially in Dublin.

“But nobody was expecting anything out of us against England at Twickenham and we managed to win there for the first time in 20 years.”

Williams will go toe-to-toe with a familiar rival this weekend in David Wallace and recognises the strength of the Irish back row collective.

“I know all about David because I have played against him for years. He is a great ball-carrier and is so strong.

“He’s part of a formidable back row with Denis Leamy and Jamie Heaslip, who has been a real find for them.

“When you see Simon Easterby on the bench you can see the strength in depth they have in their back row.”

O’DRISCOLL BRACED FOR ‘HUGE OCCASION’: Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll is readying his team for what will be a season-defining game against Wales this weekend.

O’Driscoll was a try scorer when Ireland ran out 19-9 winners at the Millennium Stadium last season and the centre is hoping for more of the same this time around.

Speaking at the team hotel in Killiney, he conceded: “It’s a huge occasion. It’s a big occasion because if you win this game, you go into the last weekend with the Six Nations title still up for grabs.

“That’s big enough to whet the appetite. We don’t really buy into the whole Gats (Warren Gatland) and Eddie (O’Sullivan) thing or anything else about Welsh Grand Slams – none of those things will affect us.

“We can only concentrate on the thing that we’re in control of and that’s our performance.”

After their three wins on the bounce, O’Driscoll knows Wales will offer his side a stiff test and with so much on the line, the first quarter and how Ireland set up their defence is going to be crucial.

“A team like Wales, they really enjoy playing against a team that stands off them and let’s them play. We’ll try and close their space down and not allow them to do that. And hopefully as a result, implement our own game-plan.

“I’m sure it will be a very physical, keenly-contested game with both defences offering very different things and the teams thinking to out-think each other.”

To listen to Brian O’Driscoll’s interview in full, please click here.


“Obviously, I owe a lot to Warren (Gatland) as he did bring me into the international fray as a 20-year-old and gave me an opportunity.

“It seems like an eternity ago since he was coach of the national team. Maybe I’ve taken (too many) knocks to the head over the years but I don’t remember those days very well.

“But he knew how to get the best of a side. I don’t think we had the same player capabilities back then as we do now.

“But we still managed to bring in some big performances, especially when we were against the ropes a bit.”

Brian O’Driscoll on Warren Gatland selecting him for his Ireland debut against Australia in 1999 and the Gatland era (1998 to 2001)

“On reflection what I didn’t have was the undying loyalty you might expect from people within your coaching set-up.

“That is what we have got here (with Wales). Eddie (O’Sullivan) is his own man. You have got to respect Eddie as a coach and the results he has achieved.

“It was a very professional environment we created in the Ireland team.

“I will always have respect for Eddie as a coach. He has won a few Triple Crowns and you can’t deny the success Ireland have had under Eddie O’Sullivan.

“They have been a top five side in the world for a number of years.”

– Wales supremo Warren Gatland on his time as coach of Ireland and his opinion of current Ireland boss Eddie O’Sullivan

“I haven’t seen Warren for nearly six-and-a-half years, (although I did speak to him) for about 30 seconds at the Six Nations launch.

“It certainly makes great lines for you guys (the media), but I think if you ask the players it’s about going out and winning a Test game on Saturday. If we get wrapped up in anything other than that it would be very foolish.”

– Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan on his relationship with Warren Gatland, his opposite number this weekend, and the sub-plot to the game of the two most recent Ireland bosses going head-to-head


32 – Brian O’Driscoll has led Ireland to 32 wins in 45 Test matches. His first game as captain of his country was against Australia in November 2002

4 – Saturday’s game will mark Denis Leamy’s fourth start at blindside flanker for Ireland. The Munster man previously donned the number 6 jersey against Japan in June 2005 and for the games against France and Scotland this year

10 – Shane Williams has scored ten tries in his last seven international outings. Since September, the Wales winger has touched down against Canada (2), Australia (1), Japan (2), Fiji (1), Scotland (2) and Italy (2). He has played against Ireland four times but failed to score