Peter O’Mahony insists Canadian talisman Jamie Cudmore will not intimidate Ireland in Saturday’s World Cup pool opener but the Irish pack knows the Clermont lock well enough to have huge respect for an old adversary in Cardiff this weekend.
Kieran Crowley’s Canadians may be a tier-two nation but their forwards have enough physicality about them, and their backs blistering pace to give Joe Schmidt’s Ireland a nightmare start to their Pool D campaign to rival those given by the likes of Namibia and Georgia during an awful 2007 tournament.
Wings DTH van der Merwe and Jeff Hassler as well as forwards Jebb Sinclair and team captain Tyler Ardron are well known to the provinces from Pro12 and European excursions but 37-year-old Cudmore remains the tallest Maple in the Canadian forest.
Ireland back rower O’Mahony knows him only too well, and not just from Munster yarns about Cudmore’s infamous on-pitch bust-up with Paul O’Connell in 2008 that saw the Clermont star sent off and Munster’s own totem sin-binned. Having faced him in his own right during last season’s Champions Cup group phase the Corkman sees a meeting with an abrasive rival as one to relish rather than being cowed at for fear of any intimidatory tactics.
“I don’t think we can focus on niggle or that kind of thing and to be fair I don’t think that’s going to happen,” O’Mahony said yesterday.
“Both teams will have too much at stake and too much to worry about, and will be purely focused on the match.” O’Mahony credited Cudmore’s wealth of experience and called the Canadian: “Hugely physical, I’ve played against him a couple of times and he really drives Clermont’s pack. He’s a real go-to guy for them and I’d imagine he’s the same for Canada. He’s someone that we’ve looked at hard and someone that we’ll have to pay a huge amount of respect to on Saturday.”
Forwards coach Simon Easterby’s relationship with the Canadian goes even further back, to when Cudmore first played alongside him as a raw import in the Llanelli Scarlets pack and called him “the heartbeat” of the Canada team. “I played with him at the Scarlets a long time ago,” Easterby said yesterday after Ireland wound up training for the last time on home soil at Carton House before departing for Cardiff today.
“He’s a good guy. He just leads by example. He’s certainly probably a little bit slower than he used to be in terms of what he can do around the pitch, but his experience is vast and he’s probably the first on their team-sheet as well as the first on the Clermont team for a number of years. When you look at it like that, he’s an impressive individual that can still mix it with the best. And I’m sure he’ll want to do that at the weekend.
“He had good things about himself back then. And has pushed on and become one of the best second-rows in world rugby. It’s a testament to him and the way he has continued throughout his career right into his thirties at the top level. Not just with Canada, but with one of the best teams in Europe, Clermont.”
Easterby said the entire Ireland squad had come successfully through training yesterday, including fit again first choice loosehead prop Cian Healy, adding that the group was solely focused on hitting the ground running with as strong a performance as possible under the Millennium Stadium roof on Saturday afternoon.
“Our focus has just been about Canada and how we’re not looking to Romania or beyond that. That’s been our focus for a couple of weeks, to get the tournament off to a good start. Without a doubt, we have to start well and we have to start with a strong performance and a positive performance.
“We don’t want to look back but we have been in this scenario before, and we are very much focussed on delivering a quality performance with a strong side against Canada. We’re not looking beyond that. We know that in the past it hasn’t happened and it’s obviously come back and bitten us a little bit.”
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