As the hours count down to Ireland’s opening match of the GUINNESS Series 2008 against Canada, we get the final thoughts of Ireland coach Declan Kidney and team captain Brian O’Driscoll on the pre-match mood in the camp, their own feelings on the game and what effect the weather could have on the gameplan.
ON THE SELECTED BENCH –
“We just think, going into this game, there’s going to be a lot of activity in and around the breakdown, so we’ve gone with a few extra loose forwards.
“We have enough cover in the second row, we feel we can slot them in if needs be.
“(If there is an injury in the second row) it will be a bit of mixing and matching between scrums and lineouts, as to who makes the calls. We’ve been practising it during the week and feel we have enough cover there.
“It’s a tough one on Ryan (Caldwell) because he’s been going well at training. We had to weigh up a number of minute factors and we just felt that this was the best combination (for the bench).”
ON HIS FEELINGS AHEAD OF HIS FIRST GAME IN CHARGE –
“I’ve been lucky enough to be with Irish teams at different levels before. Any time you’re with an Irish team, it’s always been different. There’s added responsibility because you’re representing anyone that’s been born Irish in the world.
“(The rankings situation) certainly spices it up a bit. Because of the vagaries of it, it’s not totally in our control. All we can try and do is win (tomorrow).
“We’re fully aware that we can win all three matches this month and still slip down in the rankings. What goes on tomorrow at Murrayfield (between Scotland and New Zealand) will have a bearing.
“Given that that’s so far outside our control, we just need to focus in on the game tomorrow and see can we get a win.”
ON THE MATCH PREPARATIONS –
“We’ve thrown an awful lot of information at the players and they’ve been soaking it up. I know that they’ll go out and try and do that.
“But I hope they just go out and try and be themselves and remember what got them here, because anything we’ve thrown at them is a small bit of shape.
“Like all games, it will be won or lost in the collisions. That’s the part of the game we need to get right the most and that’s the bit I’m looking forward to seeing.”
ON COPING WITH THE LIKELY WEATHER CONDITIONS –
“In any given game, it’s all about playing smart – there’s the way you might like to play and then there’s the smart way to play. I’m hoping we play the smart way because what’s important (tomorrow) is that we win.
“If that’s 3-0, then that’s 3-0. And if we have to play accordingly, that’s the way we’ll go about our business. The weather is the same for both sides.
“With the skills of both sides, both sides will be well able to run it but it’s about whether they pick and choose their times to run it at.
“The quality of ball at the breakdown, trying to stay on your feet at the breakdown is going to be difficult because the conditions will be that bit more greasy. It’s going to be an extra challenge to the skills of the players.
“In the conditions, it gives defence the upper hand. It makes it more difficult to attack, because it makes ball-handling slightly more precarious.
“You have to give a half-step running onto the ball, so you deepen your attacking line by half a step and obviously the defensive line can come that half-step more forward and catch you in behind the gain line unless you’re very sharp.
“That’s what the weather does, it can make attack more of a challenge.”
ON THE PRE-MATCH MOOD IN CAMP –
“Everyone’s excited, it’s been a really good two weeks that we’ve had together. When you get to this stage of the week of a Test match, you just want it to be on.
“There’s a good buzz at training, everyone’s enjoying each other’s company. And we just want to get out there and pull the jersey on again.
“It’s exciting times for Keith Earls and some of the guys that haven’t started home games before.
“You can also see an invigorated look on the guys who have 40, 50, 60 Tests. I think guys will be chomping at the bit come kick-off.”
ON THE APPROACH TO THE GAME –
“We’ll just go out and play the conditions as best we can. And enjoy it, you can’t forget that that’s the reason we play the game. So hopefully we’ll play with a bit of a smile on our faces.”
ON NEW CAP KEITH EARLS –
“He’s acting like a 50-cap veteran, so there’s nothing to be worried about with him.
“He’s a really calm, nice young fella and he just seems to take everything in his stride.
“Of course, there’s an underlying emotion there. But he’s taking it all in, and I envisage he’ll just play his own game and thoroughly enjoy his evening.”
ON THE CHALLENGE OF CANADA –
“Perhaps one lesson we learnt at the World Cup is that there’s no easy international matches anymore. The gap has been bridged very much between those ranked 30th to 3rd.
“Inevitably you’re going to get a hard physical game and no sides get beaten in 20 minutes or 30 minutes or in the first half. You’ve got to play teams out for 80 minutes and try to grind teams down.
“As much as the top-ranked sides try to do that to ourselves, we’ll try to do that to the perceived minnows of world rugby, not that Canada are that.
“We envisage a really, tough, hard physical battle. We’re looking forward to that and we’ll meet it with every tackle and every carry.”