‘We can’t dwell on past Irish glories for Wales rugby clash’

Coming off the bench after 20 minutes (against England), I was thinking, ‘okay, I’ve done this before’.

Ireland can’t afford to base their RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam bid on the “past glories” of the 2009 clean sweep, according to Tommy O’Donnell.

O’Donnell watched Ireland’s Grand Slam triumph six years ago from between his fingers in his living room as a raw 21-year-old still emerging with Munster.

The eight-cap back-rower admitted willing Ronan O’Gara to drop the winning goal at the death, that secured a 17-15 victory over Wales in Cardiff and Ireland’s first Grand Slam since 1948.

Ireland must see off Wales in Cardiff on March 14 to keep their Grand Slam tilt alive — but O’Donnell warned against drawing too heavily on history. “I think it’s a bit different: you can’t go over there on past glories, you don’t make a tackle on last year’s game,” said O’Donnell of drawing on the memory of 2009.

“I remember sitting on my couch, screaming, willing the ball to go over from O’Gara (in 2009).

“It was this incredibly tight, tense game and when you thought we were away, the Welsh came back and they nearly had the chance at the end. It’s a fantastic memory.”

O’Donnell is nothing like the callow youth still scrapping for Munster starts who watched Ireland steal Grand Slam glory in front of the TV six years back. The 27-year-old has seized his Test chance under head coach Schmidt in this Six Nations, twice slotting in to fine effect after injuries to Sean O’Brien.

The gritty flanker jumped into the starting line-up at the very last minute when O’Brien tweaked a hamstring in the warm-up before the tournament opener in Italy.

Ireland eased to a 26-3 win in Rome to settle O’Donnell to this year’s task as Schmidt’s men seek to retain their 2014 title.

O’Donnell then replaced O’Brien midway through the first-half of last weekend’s 19-9 victory over England, as the Leinster flanker was removed due to concussion.

The Tipperary native has conceded he still faces a big fight to force his way into the match squad to face Wales at the Millennium Stadium but admitted to receiving a big Test-level confidence boost in the last few weeks.

“Coming off the bench after 20 minutes (against England), I was thinking, ‘okay, I’ve done this before’,” says O’Donnell.

“It was just a matter of slotting in and doing what I do, going about it to the best of my ability. I found the Italian game incredibly physical, trying to attack them.

“The English lads are big ball carriers. Maybe missing out on that first 20 minutes, that’s where it might have been a lot tighter.

“Wales are a good attacking side: they went to France and beat France. That’s a fair achievement, so they’ve got very big ball carriers, incredibly physical players and they’re quite mobile and agile.

“They don’t take any prisoners in their pack; they’re great defenders and good at the breakdown. To go over there to Cardiff will make it a small bit tougher.”

n Italy have confirmed they will bid to host Rugby World Cup 2023 — the first nation to cement their opposition to Ireland.

The Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) has vowed to formalise its bid to stage the 2023 global contest when World Rugby starts accepting bids in May.

South Africa, who hosted the tournament in 1995, and the USA are also expected to ratify their bids in due course, now World Rugby has confirmed the application process.


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