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Sunday 24 September 2017

O’Gara: We’ll miss Drico but Slam is still on

RONAN O’GARA believes Ireland can win a second grand slam in four years without Brian O’Driscoll but admits that the captain’s influence is sorely missed in the camp.

Ireland’s record point-scorer, who turns 35 this year, feels O’Driscoll’s presence is already missing from the training ground.

“It was the first day’s training today and I was kind of looking to see where he was,” said O’Gara. “It was a little bit mixed, the session, and usually when he is there the standards are really high.”

O’Gara feels with Paul O’Connell leading, it is up to the backs to stand up and provide the necessary leadership behind the scrum.

“It’s an area we need to make sure standards are really high in,” added the Munster man. “It’s only when you take him (O’Driscoll) out that you realise how much of a presence he is.

“He’s a class operator, so he’ll be missed.”

The Corkman admits that this season’s Irish provincial Heineken Cup successes mean that it feels like an age since Ireland’s World Cup exit to Wales at the quarter-final stage.

“The carrot for us is to try to make the first step on the road to hopefully winning a Grand Slam,” said the Munster veteran.

“It seems to me that the World Cup is just so far away because of what has happened in the intervening period. Sport moves really quickly and you’ve got to have your eye on what’s next.

“If the last game you played for your country was Wales in a World Cup and you have pride in yourself, you don’t want that to happen twice.”

Asked if an Irish Slam was on in this year’s tournament, O’Gara was bullish.

“It is. There’s a fair bit of uncertainty in teams and you don’t know what teams will show up and how they’ll show up,” he said.

“Declan (Kidney) has been stressing to us that the only thing that will hold us back will be our attitude and our ambition going into this competition.

“If you come really tuned in and everyone wants to win it, then you have a good chance.

“But if you kind of just show up and you’re happy to play for Ireland, then you could be in trouble.”

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