O’Driscoll jumps to D’Arcy’s defence

IRISH skipper Brian O’Driscoll has defended his under pressure midfield colleague Gordon D’Arcy as one of the top two or three defenders in world rugby.

D’Arcy missed a crucial tackle on Aurelien Rougerie that provided a crutch for an ailing French side at the Aviva Stadium and has been targeted since. However, O’Driscoll has backed his Leinster colleague to do the business against England on Saturday. In fact, he’s adopted a bring-it-on attitude to the possibility that the physically imposing Matt Banahan may fill a vacancy in the centre now that England captain Mike Tindall is an absentee.

“Banahan is obviously a different style of player to Mike Tindall,” he said. “He has played some 13 for his club, not a huge amount at international.

“He is a big, big man and takes a lot of stopping but myself and Gordon have played against big centres in the past and managed to deal with them.

“Centres have to share the workload, that’s the beauty of playing with Gordon who is probably in the top two or three centre defenders in the world. He gives a lot of chat and we have a big understanding of one another. If one or the other makes a bad read we try to cover for one another.

“It’s about sharing that workload and it’s not a case of (one) man marking.”

The Leinster duo have been categorised as inside and outside centres but, of course, it’s not as simple as that.

“He plays inside and I play outside on first phase but we just play centre after that. Invariably, if you watch, you’ll see we’ll be split on either side of the pitch after phase one and it’s about trying to work for one another trying to get to the far side of the pitch.

“They’re the things that people don’t see, us getting up from the ground and trying to get to the extremities. Small things like that make him (D’Arcy) the quality player that he is.”

O’Driscoll conceded it will take a lot more than just a couple of top performances to beat England, however.

“I never remember a victory against England that has been brushed over.

“It’s always a huge game for us because of the history between the countries and the anticipation of the whole nation. This is a chance for us to leave this Six Nations with a good taste and show what we are capable of, and even though we won’t play another game until August it’s always nice finishing the season at international level on a high.”

But there is no buying into whether Ireland, as underdogs, would feel better prepared to beat an English side on the crest of a wave.

O’Driscoll insisted he had never bought into the favourites or underdogs tag anyway.

“They are playing for a Grand Slam and that obviously heightens the anticipation from their perspective and also, to a degree, from an Irish perspective; that there’s an opportunity for us to deny them something.

“But from a players’ point of view it’s not a case of denying them. It’s just a one-off Test match as far as we see it and a chance to finish out this topsy-turvy Six Nations on a high and hopefully have more victories than we have losses.”

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