Thursday, January 28, 2010

O’Driscoll has eyes on repeat Grand Slam showing

The belief that hallmarked Ireland’s progress through 2009, their year of great rugby triumph, was underlined yesterday as Brian O’Driscoll willingly contemplated the holiest of Holy Grails.

Back-to-back Grand Slams in the Six Nations championship.

It was a measure of the growing conviction within this Irish squad that the idea alone was not dismissed out of hand. O’Driscoll, speaking at the launch of the 2010 Six Nations in London, said: “Back-to-back Grand Slams? That is all new ground to me. You would have to ask someone who has done it what it feels like. I just go with the flow. But we won’t look at things any differently and we won’t treat it any differently.”

Ireland’s captain demonstrated the calmest of personas yesterday in confronting a battery of media cameras, microphones and notebooks. He offered an image of a man increasingly at peace with himself and there is little doubt that the achievements of 2009 have left a deeply satisfying feeling within the soul of O’Driscoll.

“I enjoyed all the trappings that came with it (the Grand Slam success). The winning itself, the celebrations; small things such as the general feeling in the country. If we can do that again, why not? It’s much better than not doing it again.

It was clear that the topic of the French is already looming large in Irish minds. O’Driscoll’s side meets them on the second weekend of the championship and it is a game that might be crucial in determining the eventual winners.

“We are not that good a side that we can look ahead to certain matches and take others lightly. If we are in any way off the mark against Italy (on Saturday week at Croke Park), it will be a very long, difficult afternoon.”

Yet having said, even Kidney was prepared to look as far as Paris and February 13. “It will be daunting. But that is the reason you get into sport, these are the challenges you want to face.

“Our last trips to Paris have been quite difficult — as an understatement — because France are one of the benchmarks of world rugby. Last year, they beat New Zealand in New Zealand and South Africa at home so they are one of the standard bearers for world rugby. They continually achieve and they have done very well in this tournament in the even years.

France are less dependent on injuries because they have such a big pool of playing talent.”

O’Driscoll was quick to remind his audience that Ireland have won in France just once in the last 38 years. Typically, he did not mention that it was his own hat-trick that propelled the Irish to that rarest of victories.

But he warned: “The margins between success and failure are so tiny.”

Alas, if only expectations in Ireland were as small. “The Irish people don’t do middle ground. They are either at the very top or the bottom. But it’s definitely a nicer feeling at the top so you want to stay there as long as you can,” he added.

France V Ireland Hospitality

Six Nations Hospitality

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