Ronan O’Gara believes assumptions Ireland will “take” France at Rugby World Cup is dangerous talk, and warns the French players have never been fitter during the Pierre Saint-Andre reign.
Joe Schmidt’s Ireland enjoy an excellent record over the enigmatic Les Bleus in their previous two Six Nations Championship encounters, while an Irish public remain confident Ireland will top their pool, avoid the All Blacks in the quarter-finals should they defeat France in the Millennium Stadium on October 11.
Without stating Ireland can or will win the World Cup, O’Gara, however, does believe now is the time for Ireland to finally achieve something tangible on the world stage.
“People here presume Ireland are going to beat France. I think that’s a very dangerous presumption.
“The French players are looking very fit,” said O’Gara at a Newstalk Radio road show event at the Cork Opera House last night. “They’re putting a lot of emphasis on altitude training so they seem to be believing in that. And their results in week seven compared to week one have on average… fellas are running one kilometre longer than they were six, seven weeks ago. It’s a big statistic, isn’t it, that kind of improvement?
“France have the history, France have the capabilities because they are some unbelievable specimens – Louis Picamoles is as lean as he has ever been. I think if he’s hungry, he’s a very hard man to stop.
“I think their Achilles heel is they have some great individual ability but I don’t think they can collectively put it together to threaten Ireland in terms of beating them I hope.
“If Ireland show up (like) the last two, three times they played France, I think Ireland will be collectively better than them. Both teams know that the loser faces the All Blacks and it’s not the ideal route you want to take if you want to win a World Cup.”
O’Gara added: “The next step for Irish rugby is glory at the world stage – we’ve done the building blocks, we’ve done the European Cups, done the Six Nations, done the Grand Slam. Now the next step is achieved is the world stage.”
In a wide-ranging interview, O’Gara spoke of being recently asked by All Blacks legend, Joe Rokocoko, for a one-on-one training session in his capacity as defence coach at Racing 92.
The former Ireland and Munster No.10 also reiterated his desire to return home and to become head coach of his home province, and said he would put aside parochial differences to coach in Leinster, too.
“Obviously Munster is my home and where I’d like to be head coach some day but there are big steps before one gets that job. For me there’s a seriously talented backline at Leinster and anyone involved in coaching would love a cut at that job.
“In coaching, it’s about the players and how you can get the best out of them. Confidence is crucial. I can remember certain coaches can just fill you with confidence and if you feel that in a genuine way off them is incredible and can apply to any aspect in life.”
O’Gara spoke highly of former Munster coach, Tony McGahan’s man-management skills.
“A minute before kick-off Tony is shaking your hand, kinda touching foreheads, and he used to say, ‘are you ready, king?’ which is nice to hear. He’d be going, ‘King, are you going to have a good one today?’ And I was like, ‘I’m ready, boss’.
“You can give all the tactical stuff all week, but picture me leaving the dressing room and then there’s 28,000 mad fans, most of them screaming for you, so you’re on to a good thing already.”
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