/ 20 November 2006

O’Driscoll salutes Ireland’s quality show

Ireland’s impressive 21-6 defeat on Sunday of two-time world champions Australia came about because the hosts out-foxed their rivals, claimed talismanic captain Brian O’Driscoll.

The 27-year-old failed to get on the scoresheet himself — Denis Hickie and Geordan Murphy being the two tryscorers while Ronan O’Gara kicked the rest — but he and centre partner Gordon D’Arcy were oustanding in creating and denying opposite numbers Stirling Mortlock and Lote Tuqiri any space.

O’Driscoll had said before the match that he thought the Wallabies were the smartest team in world rugby.

But after recording only their second win in 26 years over their opponents, and equalling their record margin of victory (27-12 in Brisbane in 1979 being the other), he felt they had been outsmarted.

”Australia are a smart-quality side,” said O’Driscoll, whose decision on winning the toss to play the first-half with the gale force wind against them proved a masterstroke as his side built up 15-3 lead.

”So if you can out-think them then you have done a good job. We are brimming with confidence and when we came off at halftime we were the ones with the big chests.”

O’Driscoll, who was captaining an Irish side to their first successive wins over different southern hemisphere sides, dismissed the Australians’ belief that the weather conditions had influenced the game.

”You have to play what’s in front of you and in the first half I felt we were the ones who played the rugby. We certainly did not just edge it,” said the Leinster star.

However, while O’Driscoll was prepared to accept the praise from Mortlock and coach John Connolly about his, O’Gara’s and D’Arcy’s performances — rated as outstanding by the Aussie duo — the Irish skipper preferred to wax lyrical about his centre partner.

”I think D’Arcy played extremely well,” said O’Driscoll of his Leinster teammate, who was man of the match against South Africa.

”People do not realise how strong and how powerful he is. The mumber of metres he makes after he has first been hit is incredible and sets up so much good ball for us.”

Irish coach Eddie O’Sullivan said it had been a risky strategy to play into the wind.

”I am very happy with the performance especially in the first half when we were outstanding,” said O’Sullivan, who has guided the Irish to two Six Nations Triple Crown successes.

”The second half was of a completely different nature.

”We took a risk winning the toss and playing into the wind. But we knew we had to just hang onto the ball.”

O’Sullivan, whose decision to start both Murphy and Hickie instead of Girvan Dempsey and the injured Andrew Trimble paid off handsomely, said the first half performance had been beyond his wildest dreams.

”I’d have taken an even score at half time but the two tries in the first-half were fantastic and a great bonus,” he said.

”We probably tried to over elaborate in the second half at times. But I rather we tried something than didn’t.”

O’Sullivan also revealed that experienced prop Marcus Horan was doubtful for the match with the Pacific Islands next weekend because of a suspected torn calf muscle. He said since the win over the Wallabies in 2002 Ireland had made progress.

”Compared to 2002 there is more balance to our game. I think we have made progress in that area of getting cover in every position,” said the coach. – Sapa-AFP