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22nd May 2023

Gregory Alldritt deftly deals with Stuart Barnes question on Ireland’s World Cup hopes

Patrick McCarry

Gregory Alldritt

“It’s effectively the Ireland team.”

Before Gregory Alldritt and his La Rochelle teammates left Leinster battered and beaten again – by the narrowest or margins, again – former England and Lions star Lawrence Dallaglio made an astute observation.

Our Jason Hennessy caught up with Dallaglio pitch-side at Aviva Stadium, on Saturday, as he was preparing to go on for BT Sports’ coverage of the 2023 Champions Cup.

Stating his belief that Leinster would just have enough to get over the line, Dallaglio added, “Losing twice to La Rochelle is bad enough.

“Losing three times would be, not just a doubt for Leinster but a doubt for Ireland. And I mean this is in the nicest possibly way but this [Leinster] side is effectively the Ireland team, bar one or two. If you can’t close this game out, in your home stadium, then you’ll start to have doubts when you travel to France.”

As we now know, Leinster sought to eradicate any doubts with the most flying-est of flying starts ever seen in a Champions Cup final. They had La Rochelle three tries and 17-0 behind, and with a player sin-binned, after only 13 minutes. It was all set up for the Irish province until La Rochelle dug, clawed and bulled their way back into the contest. By full-time, they were 27-26 victors.

In the post-match press conference, Stuart Barnes – another former England and Lions player – wanted to know how La Rochelle’s comeback win would affect the Irish psyche when, later this year, the World Cup rolled around.

Gregory AlldrittLa Rochelle captain Gregory Alldritt and Leinster’s injured captain Johnny Sexton. (Credit: Sportsfile)

Gregory Alldritt gives World Cup response

The victorious La Rochelle press conference lasted twice as long as the Leinster one, with that briefing with Garry Ringrose and Leo Cullen called up after around 17 minutes. Cullen politely thanked all the journalists present for covering his side all throughout the season then exited the stage.

In came Ronan O’Gara flanked by his two trusted lieutenants from the playing squad – veteran forward Romain Sazy and captain Gregory Alldritt.

Sazy spoke well, when called upon, Alldritt had some gripes with James Ryan and the coin toss and O’Gara jumped between English and French as he waxed lyrical, then personal, on a range of topics. Alldritt, who has Scottish and Irish roots, was also flitting between French and English.

With no need for the translator to get involved, Alldritt was involved in the following exchange with Stuart Barnes, who was on the beat for The Sunday TimesI:

STUART BARNES: Congratulations on today. Looking slightly further afield, this is a Leinster team packed full of Irish internationals. You’ve come to their home ground. You’ve not only won the Heineken Champions Cup – have you also, in a psychological way, done a bit of damage to their preparation for the World Cup? Or has it got absolutely nothing to do with it?

GREGORY ALLDRITT: I think it’s a different competition and different preparation, as well. It is too early to speak about the World Cup. Like ROG has told us, it is an Irish backline and pack. We have a French front row but we have Will Skelton in the second row, a Fijian [Levani Botia] in the back row. We have a great pack, as well, but to come back to your question of the World Cup – it is too early to speak about it.

Deftly handled by Alldritt, who was named EPCR Player of the Year and finals man of the match after another Herculean effort for Les Maritimes.

O’Gara then took up the running when he spoke of this club side of his not ever getting a chance to play together at a World Cup, that highest of stages, but showing everyone they are one of the world’s greatest sides.

“I mean,” he began, “we have the best 7 in Botia, Uini Atonio at 3, Tawera Kerr-Barlow at 9, Antoine Halstoy at 10, the French 12, an Australian/Samoan [UJ Seuteni] a brilliant 13, two South African wingers and Brice Dulin at 15. A brilliant loosehead in Joel Sclavi, George Henri Colombe is about to – if he wants to move his ass – do good stuff.”

O’Gara then moved on to his replacements bench but we got the point.

“We can’t play a Test game but we felt we have a Test team.”


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