O'Brien says Ireland not gloating over Galthie's absence

THE Irish management team are by no means gloating at the loss of brilliant French scrum-half and captain Fabien Galthie ahead of their RBS 6 Nations clash on March 8.

Anything but, according to Irish manager Brian O'Brien who admits to feeling sympathy for the skipper, ruled out due to a shoulder injury. He says Ireland have enough injury concerns of their own to keep them occupied.

"I suppose a lot of people will see France's misfortune as our advantage, but we don't see it like that. My first reaction is that I feel sorry for any player out through injury, no matter who he plays with I don't like to see any player injured in the game.

"Galthie is a fine player, no question, an inspirational player, probably in line for player-of-the-year, but then again he's been dropped before, was only brought back when this new regime came in. Who's to say the improvement in France isn't down just to the new regime?

"Anyway, we lost a charismatic captain ourselves, and we had to get on with it cometh the hour, cometh the man, and this is opening the door for the new fella, who could be brilliant. He was very impressive when he came on the last day, put in the cross-field kick for France's last try.

"The thing is, good and all as Galthie is, we know his play we don't know this guy's play, which means we're going to have to give him that bit more attention. He's playing with Biarritz, so we have something on him alright.

"Also, we've lost Reggie Corrigan, and he's a big loss to us on and off the field. He's a terrific panel-man, great character, great help to us. But we're no strangers to injuries, we have a lot of players out at the moment. We can't let it affect our thinking one way or the other, we've gone past that kind of mentality. It won't affect my thinking for this game anyway, I would be expecting anyone who lines out for France next week to be a top-class player, and at their best against us. That's the way we have to approach it. In the modern game, players get injured, and that's a chance you have to take. We have several guys back playing with their clubs this weekend."

One of those could be Ronan O'Gara, out for the two recent big away wins over Scotland and Italy, but according to O'Brien, O'Gara will play with Cork Constitution in the AIL only if he's deemed completely ready: "If he's capable of playing, he'll play, but no decision has been made yet. We're not going to push him, everything that can be done from a medical point of view will be done, and any decision will be in the player's best interests.

"All the lads were tired when they came back (from Italy), but they've worked very hard some people wouldn't believe how hard they've worked. . . They're tired, but they're not afraid of doing whatever has to be done anymore."

Meanwhile Fabien Pelous will lead France against Ireland following Galthie's withdrawal. Pelous, the 29-year-old back row forward who captained Les Bleus 15 times between 1997 and 2002, was named skipper in the 22-man France squad announced by coach Bernard Laporte.

"It's a logical choice," said team manager Jo Maso. "He replaced Fabien Galthie in Australia. The other players have full confidence in him and he has the experience to deal with it. We have no fears over this."

Scrum-half Galthie's replacement in the number nine shirt is expected to be Dimitri Yachvili, with the uncapped Mathieu Barrau on the bench.

The starting line-up for the Ireland game at Lansdowne Road will be announced next Tuesday at Marcoussis.

France squad: Jean-Jacques Crenca (Agen), Sylvain Marconnet (Stade Francais), Christian Califano (Saracens), Raphael Ibanez (Castres), Jean-Baptiste Rue (Agen), Fabien Pelous (Stade Toulousain), Olivier Brouzet (Montferrand), David Auradou (Stade Francais), Olivier Magne (Montferrand), Serge Betsen (Biarritz), Sebastien Chabal (Bourgoin), Imanol Harinordoquy (Pau), Dimitri Yachvili (Biarritz), Mathieu Barrau (Agen), Gerald Merceron (Montferrand), Francois Gelez (Agen), Damien Traille (Pau), Thomas Castaignede (Saracens), Clement Poitrenaud (Stade Toulousain), Xavier Garbajosa (Stade Toulousain), Vincent Clerc (Stade Toulousain), Aurelien Rougerie (Montferrand).

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