Former Munster and Ireland second row Donncha O’Callaghan, currently co-presenting Clubhouse on TV3 at 10pm on Thursday nights, took some time out lately to talk to Sports News Ireland about Ireland’s performance against Wales a fortnight ago as well as Joe Schmidt’s side’s game with Scotland this weekend.
In discussing the Irish win over Wales in Round 3 of the NatWest 6 Nations, Donncha O’Callaghan admitted that he was pleased with the Irish performance in dealing with the challenge the Welsh posed:
“Ireland’s performance was great. Wales just showed their class. They can be so far down in territory and field position and if that pass goes to hand (the pass intercepted by Jacob Stockdale), it’s game over.”
When suggested to him that Ireland’s defence is a concern, having conceded three tries twice already this season, O’Callaghan admitted that he feels Andy Farrell has done a good job but the defence still needs some work:
“It’s an area that needs tightening up. I think it’s an area that will get more training time and coming towards the end of the Championship you prioritise because the lads are stiff and sore.”
The Clubhouse presenter believes Ireland’s system is working and that the regular changing of players makes it more difficult for the system to work successfully the majority of the time:
“I don’t think system-wise we look bad. We have changed our team an awful lot and you can’t have it both ways. Everyone is looking for us to evolve and have a bigger squad for Japan, which is what we’re doing. When you do that you change players an awful lot.”
The former Lions and Barbarian player continued:
“The best thing about defence is knowing what the player inside and outside you is doing. In using the squad to expand and get better, we probably haven’t built up a relationship in defence, the knowledge of little tendencies. I’d be massively worried if we were done on our system.”
While admitting that it is welcome that players are gaining International experience with a view to the next World Cup in Japan, the Corkman believes the opportunity to win a Championship should not take a back seat:
“I think we have a really strong squad now at the moment. We need to go on now and be ruthless, and say we’re building to Japan, but we have a Championship right in front of our noses. We need to be selfish and greedy and grab it. For that reason I’d like to see a consistency of selection but that is very hard with injuries.”
As our Celtic cousins visit the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, Donncha O’Callaghan feels the Scottish side is improving and will pose a serious threat to Ireland’s Championship and Grand Slam hopes this weekend:
“You (Ireland) just want it to be another Test match. You’re just playing another game while they’re (Scotland) trying to derail you. In the last two games they had great results against France and England. I think Scotland are very very dangerous when they play. They’re probably fitter than England but I don’t think they’re fitter than us. I think it’s going to be a really tough game and hopefully we have enough to get the win. 3-0 would be great!”
In partly dismissing the idea that Irish teams don’t play well when favourites in big games, O’Callaghan says:
“There comes a time when you have to win Championships because you’re good enough. Luckily we have fellows in the room who have won Championships already which is great but Grand Slams are tough, they’re really really tough. You have to be a bit selfish throughout your career and when you have an opportunity, grab it.”
Ireland versus Scotland in the NatWest 6 Nations kicks-off at 2.15pm on Saturday. There will be live TV coverage on TV3.