…O’Gara Excited By ‘One-Off’ Game…’Fantastic Achievement’ But Fitzgerald Wants More…Watch The Women’s Match Live Online…Say What?…Numbers Game…
O’GARA EXCITED BY ‘ONE-OFF’ GAME: Ireland’s stand-in captain for the England game, Ronan O’Gara, is determined to drive the team to victory at Twickenham and provide a lift to the Irish rugby public after last weekend’s deflating defeat by Wales.
Set to lead out Ireland for the first time, O’Gara insisted: “We can’t change the result against Wales, it’s gone now. It’s important for this team and the players – whose confidence levels aren’t as high as they should be -that we make sure we’re in the best frame of mind about this weekend.
‘We have to be positive – and I’m excited by this game because it’s England at Twickenham. It’s a one-off game.
‘There might not be much at stake in terms of finishing position but pride is on the line for me personally and the team. It’s a massive occasion for us.”
Ireland’s chances of lifting the title may be gone for another year but in those crucial moments in the dressing room before kick-off, O’Gara will be hammering home the point that the players are not only playing for themselves but the Irish public in the stands and back at home.
‘Not only are we representing the Irish rugby team, we’re representing the Irish public. That’s something that’s hugely important to me,” he admitted.
‘I’ll take personal responsibility for trying to put a smile back on people’s faces in Ireland.
“England are wounded after losing to Scotland but I’d like to think that there’ll be a reaction from us because of what happened last weekend (against Wales).”
‘FANTASTIC ACHIEVEMENT’ BUT FITZGERALD WANTS MORE: A little over twelve months ago, injury prevented Luke Fitzgerald from playing for the Grand Slam-winning Ireland Under-20 team. Having failed to make his mark with the U-20s, his elevation into the Ireland senior squad has him determined to all aspects of his game.
Fitzgerald came off the replacements bench to make his Six Nations debut in last weekend’s defeat to Wales and although many supporters will remember his short time on the field for him colliding with monster prop Tony Buckley when trying to dart into a gap, the Leinster flyer was just delighted to get some game-time.
“The whole Croke Park experience was brilliant even if the result was disappointing. You’d always be looking for those extra few minutes on the ball, especially when they finished with the ball for last five minutes,” he said.
“You’re left with the feeling that you never really got a real ‘cut off them’, a real clear opportunity to have a go.”
In the lead-up to a game, the 20-year-old takes on board the advice of his dad, former Ireland prop Des Fitzgerald, and ex-Armagh footballer Enda McNulty, who is now a renowned sports psychologist.
The young Dubliner admitted: “I’m just delighted to be included in any Irish squad. It’s still a fantastic achievement and I’m delighted to be part of it. Obviously it would be great to be on the pitch from the start. Still, there’s an opportunity when I’m on the bench that I might get on.
‘I still feel there’s massive improvements to be made in my game. I’m continually trying to improve.
“At the moment I’m working with Enda in terms of a career-long thing, trying to continuously improve all aspects of my game. I’m going through a good patch but there’s more to come.”
WATCH THE WOMEN’S MATCH LIVE ONLINE: The Ireland’s Women’s team, stung by last weekend’s 19-10 defeat by Wales, will face the reigning RBS Women’s Six Nations champions, England, at the grounds of London Irish Amateur RFC on Saturday (kick-off 4.45pm).
And you will be able to keep up with all the action from Sunbury by logging onto international sports broadcasting website, www.247.tv, and paying a small fee to view live footage of the game.
The entertainment starts off at 3pm when the England Women’s ‘A’ team take on the Nomads, a re-match from the game at the start of February, and then Ireland will look to spoil the party for England two days before St. Patrick’s Day.
The English, unbeaten in the tournament to date, are gunning for a Grand Slam and it will take a big effort from John O’Sullivan’s Ireland side for them to come away with a shock result.
Rosie Williams and Gill Burns will be providing the live commentary on 247.tv. As well as the website’s live coverage of the two games, high quality replays will be made available shortly after the final whistle for your on-demand enjoyment.
“Ireland are a different proposition without Brian O’Driscoll in that they don’t have an out-and-out number 13. Andrew Trimble and Shane Horgan are strong ball carriers so it will definitely be a challenge for us. It will probably change their team dynamic a little bit but we have looked at that.
“It’s a case of fronting up and making our tackles and understanding where their new threats are rather than the ones they would have had if O’Driscoll had been playing.”
– England centre Toby Flood discusses what it will be like to face a Brian O’Driscoll-less Ireland on Saturday and the problems Andrew Trimble and Shane Horgan are likely to cause in midfield
“Short of game-time off the bench, it’s hard to make such a big impact. All you can do is give it your all and hope some day you’ll be picked to start.
“I like competing at the rucks for the ball. I love getting in and causing as much damage as I can. I love getting the ball in hand and running with it.
“You are given nine minutes in 80 minutes. You’re just thinking: ‘hit everyone, hit every ruck, try and get the ball, and knock everyone back in every tackle’.”
– Tony Buckley tells us what it is like to be a replacement prop in the Ireland squad, with his Munster colleague John Hayes still having a firm grip on the tighthead position. Buckley replaced Hayes after 71 minutes of last weekend’s loss to Wales at Croke Park
“I’ve been wearing that on and off a bit since the home game against Clermont Auvergne (in November). I just got a dead leg and it tends to keep bleeding and going into my knee, so it’s precaution really to stop getting bangs.
“It’s purely protection, it’s not muscular or anything. I don’t feel it, it’s just to stop me getting a bang on the one spot.”
– Ireland flanker David Wallace explains why he has been wearing some heavy strapping on his right thigh in recent games in the championship
16 – The size of boot that Munster and Ireland prop Tony Buckley wears. The powerfully-built Corkman, who could make his seventh appearance for Ireland this weekend, has to get boots specially made for him in order to fulfill his duties with both province and country
395 – The number of tackles that Ireland have made in the 2008 Six Nations championship – they are the top tacklers in the tournament so far. England have only had to make 358 tackles to date, ranking them fifth with Grand Slam hopefuls Wales (318) in sixth
20 – The number of turnovers which the England team have won in their four games so far in the 2008 Six Nations championship. They head the turnovers won statistics, ahead of Italy (17), Ireland (16), Wales (14), France (12) and Scotland (10)