“They should be very proud.”
Peter O’Mahony was determined, on Saturday night, to enjoy a couple of post-match beers in the Ireland dressing room, before switching focus to New Zealand. Ireland, as he said, have ‘bigger fish to fry’ but Brian O’Driscoll is confident this team have the right skillet.
Ireland topped World Cup Pool B in emphatic style, at Stade de France, as they ran in six tries to dispose of Scotland 36-14. Any South African worried that Ireland and the Scots would conspire to finish on a scoreline that would eliminate them must have [hopefully] felt foolish by half-time. Ireland led 26-0 and never looked back. Had they nailed a couple more conversions, and had Finlay Bealham’s late try not been chalked off, they would have put a record points tally on the World No.5 side.
Following the game, Brian O’Driscoll spoke very well on ITV about the quarter final challenge that lies ahead, and how Ireland can be more confident about when they faced the All Blacks at the 2019 World Cup.
Brian O’Driscoll on Ireland vs. New Zealand
“It was a terrific team performance to a man, bench included,” Brian O’Driscoll reflected, on ITV.
“Everyone was very, very good when they came in. Their accuracy was fantastic, the cohesion was there from minute one. Look, I think it was a massive statement of intent as to what this team has in store for anyone they come across.
“Obviously it’s a huge quarter-final next week against New Zealand. We don’t have a good record against them at World Cups, but hopefully there is a different feeling to this outfit.
“The quality just spread throughout the whole team, everyone had big moments and they shared it equally. They should be very proud. Probably the celebrations are a bit more contained because the game was over at halftime as spectacle.”
O’Driscoll then confidently outlined the two main reasons Ireland should be confident that this 2023 side are better equipped than the 2019 team, which lost 46-14 to the All Blacks, in Japan.
“We should have confidence,” he stated. “Be nervous about the prospect of what is coming, and maximum respect to the All Blacks – they are a team that have won multiple World Cups.
“But there’s two aspects [for that confidence] – Defensively we’re a vastly improved team in the last year, they’re miserly and don’t give up many scores. Not often do they concede two tries.
“Then, the evolution of their game plan. Four years ago we came unstuck because we tried to do the same thing for two or three years, just a little bit better, and everyone worked us out. Teams stayed off us for three of four phases and waited for the power play to come, then completely flattened us.
“Whereas, now, we’ve so many shot options – Johnny Sexton can pull the trigger on two, three, four options – and when they don’t pick the right option, and they don’t always, it’s the ability to get back and create one-on-ones, mismatches within a phase or two. That’s a real point of difference in this team.
“Layer on top of that, they’re unbelievable at the ruck. 10 turnovers again today, spread throughout – Jamison Gibson-Park tonight, Conor Murray last week – these guys that have never been turnover kings are now following suit, after guys like Sheehan, O’Mahony, Doris and Porter.
“They’re just putting all the pieces together very well, but it will still take a monumental performance against a very good All Blacks team.”
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell was asked about next Saturday’s quarter final against New Zealand, who won the World Cup in 1987, 2011 and 2015.
“First things first,” he said, “we will enjoy tonight because it was a big week for us. It was a big game for us as Scotland are a great team. We paid them the respect they deserve and that is why we came out with a performance like we did in the first half. The wives and girlfriends and families are over and we will make sure we enjoy that.
“I’m sure once we have recovered properly with a spring in our step, if you can’t get excited about what is coming, this is proper living now. This is exactly where you want to be and these boys have been waiting for opportunities and big games to show what they have learned for a while now. It doesn’t get any bigger than next week and we will relish that.”
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