O'Driscoll always believed
September 17, 2011
Ireland skipper Brian O'Driscoll issues instructions in the heat of the battle in Auckland © Getty Images
Quade Cooper Stephen Ferris Will Genia James Horwill Sean O'Brien Paul O'Connell James O'Connor Brian O'Driscoll Ronan O'Gara Johnny Sexton
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll was ebullient after his side's stunning 15-6 victory over Australia in Auckland on Saturday and insisted that he had never lost faith that Declan Kidney's side were capable of such an incredible upset.
The Irish arrived at the Rugby World Cup on the back of four successive defeats and did little in their tournament opener to suggest that they had it in them to defeat an Australian side brimming with belief after this year's Tri-Nations success and regarded by many as second favourites behind hosts New Zealand to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
However, on the back of a sensational display from the pack and an incredible defensive effort all round, Ireland pulled off one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history courtesy of five penalties, Jonathan Sexton nailing two before Ronan O'Gara landed three after coming on as a replacement in the second half.
The Wallabies managed just two penalties of their own through James O'Connor and, remarkably, were held scoreless during a surprisingly one-sided second half in which they only exerted some pressure on the Irish line during the final ten minutes. Even then, though, Ireland, roared on by the vast majority of those in attendance at Eden Park, held firm to record the biggest win their World Cup history.
"It's a performance we knew we had in us," O'Driscoll said. "With the crowd here tonight it felt like we were in Dublin. And I'm just delighted that we were able to give them something to shout about. We had to dig deeper than we had done in the last five games."
The Leinster centre was particularly proud of the performance of the Irish pack, with the front five responsible for dismantling the Wallabies set-piece and back-row trio Stephen Ferris, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip the suppliers of a constant stream of go-forward ball.
"It is difficult to win games when your pack are second best but there was no doubt today our pack laid the platform for the victory, that is unquestionable," the former Lions captain said. "The tight five needed to front up and our front-row was immense and just gave us an opportunity to play territory and get ourselves into situations where we could kick points and there was some phenomenal turnovers as well.
"They were definitely the ones who put us in the position to win the game and I have no problem giving them the credit they deserve to win the game."
Ireland now look a sure thing to top Pool C and set up a quarter-final against either Wales or Samoa but, with two games still to come, against Russia and Italy, O'Driscoll is not getting carried away. "It's only half the job done."Two wins and two more to get. As much as we will enjoy this, let's not lose sight that we have two more games."
Ireland head coach Declan Kidney, a man not known for expressing too much emotion, was characteristically downbeat after the game. "I was pleased with the way we went about out business," he said. "We managed to stifle a very good Australian side. I think our scrum is getting a little stronger. We still have a little bit of work to do. The work really starts now."
He did express some satisfaction, though, at seeing his troops bring Ireland's dismal losing streak against the Wallabies to an end. "It's the fifth time we have played Australia in the Rugby World Cup and you get a bit fed up with losing," he said.
The former Munster boss also gave short shrift to the suggestion that the Wallabies had been severely handicapped by the loss of first-choice openside flanker David Pocock not long before kick-off. When asked how significant Pocock's withdrawal had been to the outcome of the game, Kidney replied: "Probably about the same as the absence of David Wallace.
"It didn't matter, we knew we had to win the breakdown. It doesn't matter who's playing in a match, it is a rugby World Cup. You always want to play a team at full tilt, the fact that David Pocock was unfortunate enough to be out injured, I'm sure he'll come back and play a big part in the tournament, but you can only play what's out against you. Our guys played well tonight, it is the first time our backrow combination has had a game together and they can get stronger from tonight's performance."
The result places South Africa and Australia on a quarter-final collision course before a likely meeting with New Zealand, if as expected they defeat France, in the last four.
Meanwhile the top half of the knockout draw could entirely consist of Six Nations teams - a prospect that appeals to Kidney. "It's probably good for the World Cup. The Tri-Nations team play a lot against one another," he said. "Let the Tri-Nations sort out one half and the Six Nations sort out the other half. It's only a World Cup if a northern hemisphere side plays a southern hemisphere team in the final."
Meanwhile, Wallabies boss Robbie Deans admitted that his side had underperformed on the day and was quick to pay tribute to the victors. "It was a very good Irish performance and they fully deserved their win," he said. "They gave us difficulty across the board. The scrum was part of that. They played more intelligently. We were outplayed. It doesn't really matter what elements you put it down to. We came here to win but we came second.
"What we got was an insight into what the World Cup is all about. At no point did we presume we'd be successful. What the Irish brought to the table was exactly what was required to succeed in tournaments like this. We must add that to our game if we hope to achieve anything in our time here."
Australia captain James Horwill echoed the sentiments expressed by his head coach, saying that he had no arguments with the result. "The Irish did well to spoil our ball, we couldn't get any momentum and we played some dumb footy," the lock said. "We weren't good enough. We didn't given enough clean platform for our backs and they did well to spoil us and they played well and they deserved their win."
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