THE Ireland management has rejected suggestions that the Munster players aren’t as passionate when lining out for Ireland as they are for their province.
The implication will no doubt irk the Heineken Cup winners in the Ireland squad who are busy preparing for a one-off test against the Wallabies.
An Australian journalist said at yesterday’s Ireland coaching staff ‘media catch-up’ that former Munster import, Christian Cullen, was sceptical of the Munster players’ attitudes when they pulled on a green shirt.
Ireland team manager Joey Miles and defence coach, Graham Steadman, who coached at Munster, agreed there has never been any lack of application on the part of the Munster players when they line out for their country.
“I’ve heard this theory before,” said Miles. “All I can say is that when we have the players in camp and when they represent Ireland, we’ve never ever detected any lack of ambition or lack of application from them. Certainly the individuals involved, talking to them, there is never any question of lack of application for Ireland. Never.”
Steadman concurred with Miles. “I can speak from experience having worked with both teams. I have never detected that in four and half years working with Irish rugby. It is a different feeling down there (in Munster) because they’re a close-knit group. And when you get the guys together in this kind of environment, over a short period of time, it’s up to us to gel those players and get them together when they go out and do battle.
“I don’t think there’s a massive difference between the environment at Munster and this set up here,” he said.
Steadman also reacted to comments made by former Leinster coach and Australian international, Gary Ella, who suggested that Brian O’Driscoll is not the world’s greatest defender.
“I think the only way to react to that is for Brian to go out there and do what he does best, and that’s play. He’s a world-class athlete. My experience with working with Brian over the last three years is that he’s one of the best decision-makers in tight situations, whether it is one versus one or two versus one against him — he very rarely gets beaten.”
Meanwhile, Shane Jennings is on stand-by should David Wallace’s calf strain fail to clear up ahead of tomorrow’s test against Australia in the Telstra Dome, Melbourne. The Munster flanker will undergo a fitness test this morning. However, while Wallace didn’t train with the team, he did some running and Miles is hopeful Wallace will be fit to face the Wallabies.
“He was pretty much up to full speed today and, subject to there being no reaction to that, we are hopeful that David will be all right,” said Miles.
Meanwhile interim Ireland forwards coach, Niall O’Donovan, expects a strong challenge from the Australian scrum, often perceived as one of the weakest in world rugby.
The Ireland front row got a searching test from the All Blacks last weekend in Wellington, but many feel the Irish should get the upper hand on the Wallaby front three.
However, O’Donovan remembers how the Aussies produced a good scrummaging performance in Perth two years ago and expects nothing different under the roof of the Telstra Dome.
“It’s an opinion that the Australians scrum isn’t strong but I think their scrum is strong,” said the former Munster assistant coach. “I toured down here a good few times in Australia and New Zealand. History showed that we were always in the game with NZ with 10 to 15 minutes to go. We were never in the game with the Australians with 10, 15 minutes to go — we were well out of the game at that stage.
“I can only go on what the Australians have done against us and, two years ago, their scrum was very strong and they took a ball against the head if I remember right. I’m expecting a tough contest there. Just because the New Zealanders are that bit ahead of everybody else, it doesn’t mean that the Australians have a weak scrum.”
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