Saturday 19 January 2019

Drico fears French ruthlessness if Irish don’t learn from errors

BRIAN O’DRISCOLL knows the wreckage of mistakes against Italy cannot be repeated against the unforgiving French at The Aviva Stadium on Sunday. Or else?

“If we start slowly this weekend, we’ll get torn apart,” he said.

“They can cut teams open in the blink of an eye. They seem very comfortable in what they are doing. They’ve got a lot of ball players, guys who are not afraid to play with big width and take chances. It all makes for an open game.”

There is no need to point the finger. Grown men have grown used to taking the flak when it comes. The Irish captain doesn’t have to have a quiet word in the ear of any of his peers.

“They know. They know themselves. I know myself the errors I made. They might be uncharacteristic. Nonetheless, they happened. You go about trying to put that right the next time you put on the jersey,” he said.

The prospect of dealing with a redhot France is a world away from absorbing the direct confrontation from a limited Italy. The French are as clever and highly skilled as any nation in the world.

“You’re playing international rugby because you are a smart enough footballer to read situations that you find yourself in. You just have to read what’s in front of you and adjust accordingly,” added O’Driscoll.

“That’s why players are picked to play at this level. That is the difference between them and guys that never get to play international rugby,” he emphasised.

“I stand by what I said last weekend in that parts of our shape were really, really good. We created a huge amount. If that was part of our game we struggled with I would be worried this week,” continued O’Driscoll.

“It wasn’t. It was just the small things, the looking after the ball, the quality of the pass. They can be easily corrected. We just have to make sure we work as hard as we did last week and try to hold onto our shape.”

Predictably, Ireland coach Declan Kidney has made minor alterations, bringing back Jamie Heaslip to number eight as the only change in personnel, Sean O’Brien moves to the blindside at the exclusion of Denis Leamy.

There are those, such as centre Gordon D’Arcy and scrumhalf Tomas O’Leary, who owe their retention to Kidney’s loyalty rather than anything they produced in Italy. In truth, D’Arcy has been in sound form; O’Leary hasn’t.

“A huge amount of errors were just down to individuals,” stated O’Driscoll. “The guy in possession has to look after the ball. It is of upper-most importance. “We lost our patience and tried to score too early at times.

“We thought we were getting over the line when we weren’t. The individual responsibility of holding onto the pill is definitely something we have thought about this week. The big onus is on ourselves.”

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