The current feel-good factor surrounding Irish rugby continued at Kingsholm on Tuesday night as Ireland posted an impressive 39-14 win over the Barbarians. With the Munster players having joined up with the summer tour party, Malcolm O’Kelly is itching for a crack at New Zealand and Australia in the coming weeks.
O’Kelly may be 33 and in the twilight of his international career but, having spoken recently of how much he was still enjoying his rugby, the Leinster giant revelled in the openness of the Barbarians game.
One moment typified that. In the lead-up to Ireland’s fourth try, scored by Jamie Heaslip, O’Kelly took the ball on, got his long limbs in motion and made a brilliant break out of the Irish 22 before linking with Luke Fitzgerald over the halfway line.
It was certainly a moment for the DVD collection of Ireland’s most-capped player and both personally and collectively, he was delighted with the night’s work at Kingsholm.
“We’re pretty happy. It was good preparation for what lies ahead. We’ll take the win, it was a great win for us. We’re very upbeat for travelling across to New Zealand and Australia,” he said, reflecting on the five-try victory.
“We were playing against Super 14 players. Obviously the Barbarians were not as organised or as focused as a Test side, but we still went out and scored some good tries and played some good rugby.”
O’Kelly was particularly pleased to see Ireland’s backs get a chance to stretch their legs after the disappointing World Cup and Six Nations campaigns.
“We’ve had a mixed season but we’ve got good young players, the crux of the back-line was there (against the Baa Baas) and they looked devastating.
“They were up in the faces of the opposition and they were pouncing on every loose ball and some of the young guys really shone,” he added.
O’Kelly, who made his debut against New Zealand back in November 1997, will touch down in Wellington on Sunday with the rest of the Irish squad.
The challenge of trying to become the first Ireland side to beat the All Blacks has a spring in his step, or as he put it: “as much as an 18-stone man can have a spring in his step!”