Donncha O’Callaghan: ‘The Wales lads are brilliant craic but for 80 minutes you despise them’

Munster legend Donncha O’Callaghan has issued a warning to Ireland about the potential ‘banana skin’ that awaits them at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow afternoon.

Donncha O’Callaghan: ‘The Wales lads are brilliant craic but for 80 minutes you despise them’

The Worcester Warriors lock was a key member of the Irish team that secured a Grand Slam title at the expense of Wales in 2009, but feels the pressure may well be off Warren Gatland’s side in their latest Six Nations meeting.

“I hope it’s just a great game. I think, to be fair, though, they’re always the banana skin aren’t they? Especially [when Ireland are] at home, because they get to play with less pressure. I know from just being involved in it.”

His involvement also gave O’Callaghan an insight into the Ireland-Wales relationship, a curious mix of fire and fondness.

“You get on so well with the Welsh lads on tours. They’re brilliant craic, but it’s so amazing how you’re able to park it and for 80 minutes you absolutely despise and hate them. You would do anything to get the win. Then after the match, straight away, there’s an auld high five and ‘jeez, you were sour today bud!’ Or something like that, so you take up where you left off. I think it’s going to be tough.”

With game time becoming limited at his native province, O’Callaghan joined Worcester in September 2015. During his spell overseas, the Cork man has come to appreciate the way rugby is structured in Ireland.

“Irish rugby is in a great spot. I’m a 100% Munster head, so I would have always had blinkers and been selfish. You would have always thought ‘I need to be in green’. But when you go away, you kind of sit back a bit and realise the structure is brilliant. I promise you, other countries slate what we’ve got because they’re envious. It’s really well managed.

“We are doing so well for what we have, playing population wise. Even when you consider where rugby is in the pecking order of sport here. It’s always one that annoyed me with the Kiwis. You were kind of thinking, if you’d Joe Canning, Henry Shefflin, and all those lads togging out, imagine how talented we’d be if it was the number one sport.”

O’Callaghan was speaking at the Botanical Gardens (Opium) on Dublin’s Wexford St, where he was unveiled as Centra’s 2018 Live Well ambassador. With his glittering playing career coming to a close at the end of the English Premiership campaign, the father of four is contemplating what the future holds.

O’Callaghan says he can’t see himself taking up a coaching position at Thomond Park anytime soon. “I 100% will be involved with Munster, in terms of being the supporter. I don’t know the areas that I would need to up-skill at the moment to be good enough to come in and make a useful contribution. I would kick myself in the face if I was the fella that threw on a tracksuit and was jobs for the boys.

“I keep in contact with an awful lot of the lads. I’m an agony aunt nearly to most of them. Just small little things, like the move up to Limerick. It’s amazing how many guys you chat to and they want to talk to you about that, because they’re struggling with it and they miss certain things.

“I’ve never detached myself in any way and the same with the Worcester lads. You like to think you’re always there for them. ‘No’ is the kind of answer in a roundabout way,” said O’Callaghan.

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