…A Feast Of Pre-Match Multimedia…Leamy Singles Out Blair As Key Man…O’Driscoll On The Four Changes…Say What?…Numbers Game…
A FEAST OF PRE-MATCH MULTIMEDIA: Our multimedia men have worked their magic again here at IrishRugby.ie to provide you with a series of insightful pre-match interviews in the lead-up to Saturday’s game against Scotland.
Click here to watch Irish Rugby TV interviews with Donncha O’Callaghan, Denis Leamy and Rory Best, as well as coverage of the Ireland team announcement press conference from Tuesday.
Also, we have a feast of audio interviews – Declan Kidney, Gert Smal, Les Kiss, Brian O’Driscoll, Rory Best, Denis Leamy and Peter Stringer all talked to us.
Irish Rugby TV on IrishRugby.ie.
LEAMY SINGLES OUT BLAIR AS KEY MAN: Recalled Ireland number 8 Denis Leamy reckons wily scrum half Mike Blair is the man Ireland will need to watch at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The Scotland number 9 has not played to his usual high standards so far in this year’s Championship, but Munster man Leamy knows from previous games just how influential he can be.
“We’ve struggled over the last couple of years against Scotland. They haven’t made it easy for us at the breakdown,” he said.
“Competing for ball has always been an issue. Their lineout is very good because they have four very tall men.
“With targets like that, winning ball isn’t a problem. (Mike) Blair dictates well around the fringes and is a dangerman who needs a lot of watching.
“He runs the show, does a lot of talking and puts players into the game. Hopefully we can shut down their key players.”
Coming back from an injury-interrupted first half of the season, Leamy has had to bide his time in reclaiming his place in the Irish back row.
Stephen Ferris and Jamie Heaslip have really come to the fore over the past season and the pair have been keeping Leamy on the bench to date.
“It’s been difficult because you’ve got to understand the boys are playing well. They got the opportunity,” the Tipperary native said of his rivals for the number 6 and 8 jerseys.
“They got the jersey against France. They played very well that day and they kept the jersey. You can’t argue with that.
“Sometimes you’ve got to put your hand up and say ‘fair play.’
“Initially I would have been delighted to come back in and just get on the bench.
“But when you are on the bench it’s human nature you want more. Sitting on the bench is very frustrating.
“Thank God I haven’t done a lot of it for a long time, so I sort of forgot about how frustrating it is.”
O’DRISCOLL ON THE FOUR CHANGES: IrishRugby.ie caught up with Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll earlier this week to get his thoughts on the four players brought into the Irish team to face Scotland.
“The guys that are coming in have a wealth of experience and that’s great to call on,” he explained.
“I suppose the situation where there are four guys left out when they’ve played pretty well up to now is a strange situation, but you’ve got to look at the positives.
“The pressure is on those guys that are wearing the jersey this weekend to deliver, otherwise they know the other boys will be back in for the game the following week.”
Inside centre Gordon D’Arcy, scrum half Peter Stringer, hooker Rory Best and number 8 Denis Leamy boast 193 Ireland caps between them and O’Driscoll agreed that it is a luxury to have players of their class and Test match quality to come into the side.
“They all bring different characteristics, besides the experience factor.
“They’ve come off the bench in the previous games and really have great impacts.
“‘Strings’ is obviously a different type of player to Tomas O’Leary, his fast delivery will be a big plus for us.
“‘Darce’ is a very strong ball carrier, ‘Leams’ likewise. He’s a very smart footballer and Rory has been excellent in the loose and he’s a good scrummager.
“There’s a quick summation of all four of them. I mightn’t be an expert in all fields but that’s clearly what I can see the boys bring.”
D’Arcy’s return to the starting line-up will see O’Driscoll rekindle his international centre partnership with his Leinster team-mate.
The 30-year-old is looking forward to dovetailing with D’Arcy for the first time in the Test arena since he injured his arm against Italy in February of last year.
“Darce is a real threat with ball in hand, he’s at his best when he’s going forward. He’s not a big guy but he’s incredibly powerful and very difficult to stop.
“Defensively he’s very sound, he’ll bring that to the game…slightly different to Paddy (Wallace) but a nice mix.”
“It has been frustrating and very difficult and I’ve admitted that. At the start, being left out of the team at the World Cup and it’s gone on from there.
“It’s been quite frustrating, you question yourself as a person and player really in the initial weeks after that, because you find yourself in a position you haven’t been used to and haven’t experienced over the years.
“It’s just about remaining positive. Even though there was a lack of game-time there, I just tried to make every opportunity count. Every time I got on the pitch, I tried to make the most of it.
“It’s a great honour and a privilege to be back and part of a great squad and hopefully we can build on it.”
– Recalled scrum half Peter Stringer, who is set for his first start since last June’s Test against Australia, talks about how he has coped with being out of the team and the battle to regain the Ireland number 9 jersey
“To say the Irish fancy their chances would be an understatement. In some cases, they are now looking to what they see as their Grand Slam decider in their final game with Wales and, if there is an element of complacency about this weekend in the Irish camp, we can exploit it.
“Ireland are a big, physical side and the first thing we must do is take them on in the battle for the gain-line and all contact situations, but we are capable of that. We have Graham Steadman as the Scotland defence coach.
“He has worked extensively with Ireland and the European champions Munster, whose pack forms the nucleus of this Ireland team. Mike Brewer has also worked with Leinster, so we will have all the information needed in how to front up and do a job on them.
“Also, with Euan Murray back in our front row, I think we have the physical presence and scrum power to get the nudge on them up front.”
– Former Scotland international Sean Lineen, who is the current Glasgow Warriors coach, reckons the Scots can expose the Irish weaknesses at Murrayfield on Saturday and in particular, cause some damage in the scrum
“Stephen (Ferris), along with other Ulster lads, were away training with Ireland when I turned out against Glasgow last Saturday.
“That means the banter has been saved for when we get back together, when I intend to have the upper hand.
“However, to do that will mean containing the likes of Ferris who makes a massive difference with his athleticism and tackling ability.
“In many ways he sums up the Irish approach, which is to use strength to hold on to the ball and force the opposition to be patient.
“Hopefully we kept enough powder dry in attack against the Italians to be able to come up with something in attack ourselves once we secure possession.”
– Ulster’s Simon Danielli, who is Scotland’s right winger for Saturday’s game, talks about the lack of interaction with his provincial colleagues in the lead-up to the Murrayfield encounter and how Scotland are looking forward to unleashing their attack
16 – So far in this year’s Championship, Ireland have succeeded in finishing their matches with a scoring burst between the 70th and 80th minutes.
In that time, Declan Kidney’s men have scored two tries and two penalty goals. In their opening three matches, Scotland have failed to score between the 70th and 80th minutes
898 – Ireland out-half Ronan O’Gara is just two points away from becoming the first player in Irish rugby history to score 900 Test points.
He is also just five points away from overtaking England’s Jonny Wilkinson (479 points) as the highest points scorer in the International Championship
12 – The number of players in the Ireland and Scotland teams for Saturday’s game that have 50 or more Test caps to their name.
There are eight in the Ireland starting line-up – Brian O’Driscoll (91), Ronan O’Gara (90), Peter Stringer (87), David Wallace (53), Paul O’Connell (60), Donncha O’Callaghan (53), John Hayes (92) and Marcus Horan (64) – and Scotland have four in Chris Paterson (93), Mike Blair (56), Simon Taylor (64) and Jason White (72)