Ireland right to harbour lofty ambitions of World Cup glory – O’Driscoll
Former star says O’Brien will be Schmidt’s first choice No 7 for World Cup if he stays fit
Brian O’Driscoll: “It’s [Argentina] a great test for us in advance of the All Blacks game because our perceived frailties will be tested.helped.” . Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Brian O’Driscoll played his own huge role in the transformation of Irish rugby, and all has changed, changed utterly since he first broke into the Ireland team in 1999. Not the least of this is the mentality of the current squad compared to that of previous ones.
For example, having risen to the dizzy heights of number two in the world, several of this squad have publicly stated their ambition to reach number one.
“You have to have lofty ambitions. To be number one, you have to consistently beat all sides for three or four years 95 per cent of the time. We have only beaten New Zealand once. That is the reality. So if you want to have those lofty ambitions, you have got to beat the All Blacks again this month,” says O’Driscoll.
“It is a very different mentality to when I was 20/21-years-of-age coming into the environment, but they don’t know any different. They are coming in thinking ‘why can’t we be the best team in the world’? It is such an un-Irish thing. We are not used to it. But this is new ground we are breaking.”
This month was, he said, “all with one eye on the World Cup and wanting to be world champions; not to get to a semi-final or a final, but actually win it”.
Noting how Argentina have “conversely been very good in attack, but very poor in defence” O’Driscoll added: “What I really like about tomorrow’s fixture is, how will they stretch us in the wide channels. That’s been our Achilles heel. Any time that we’ve struggled over the past two years, we’ve gotten narrow.”
He saw signs of this against Italy last week, and added: “It’s a great test for us in advance of the All Blacks game because our perceived frailties will be tested.”
The game is also notable for marking the latest return from injury of Seán O’Brien, and O’Driscoll maintained that he is Ireland’s first-choice seven.
“Dan Leavy had an incredible year last year, Jordi Murphy played really well when he came in and Jose van der Flier has been really good for Leinster. But I think, when it comes down to it, Seán is a guy who has done it in the past for Joe when he’s been asked.
“He’s respected on the world stage. The Kiwis really respect him. He’s one player that could get into their team, without any doubt. They admit that themselves – and they don’t say that lightly.
“Having played with him, you have to have a real appreciation for what he brings. He brings an aggressiveness that very few others can match and there’s security in seeing his name on the team sheet. I loved playing in the same team as Seán O’Brien. You just knew that there was no backwards step. It’s channelled aggression that is very hard to replicate.
“Other players might have better components to their game here and there but on the whole, Seán is Ireland’s number seven in the World Cup if he can remain fit.”