O'Driscoll wary of improved Roberts
October 5, 2011
O'Driscoll and Roberts formed an impressive partnership for the British & Irish Lions in 2009 © Getty Images
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll has pinpointed the threat posed by Wales centre Jamie Roberts ahead of their Rugby World Cup quarter-final showdown in Wellington on Saturday.
The two formed an impressive partnership during the British & Irish Lions' visit to South Africa in 2009 with Roberts claiming the honour of Player of the Series. But O'Driscoll believes his former team-mate, who has been in explosive form in New Zealand, is now an even better player.
"Most of the Welsh squad are in good form. Jamie Roberts has done well, mixing his game up well. He'll be a handful, but that's nothing new," he said. "Jamie carries extremely hard, but he's also brought in some nice subtleties.
"He's not afraid to mix it up and that's made him difficult to read. He's evolved on that front, but one aspect of his game that hasn't changed is his ability to break the gainline. Teams play off go-forward ball and he's one of their go-to guys for that."
Ireland enter Saturday's showdown as marginal favourites to reach the semi-finals for the first time in World Cup history. One of the key ingredients behind their unbeaten march through the World Cup has been their rampaging back row of Sean O'Brien, Stephen Ferris and Jamie Heaslip.
O'Brien and Ferris have been wrecking balls while the industry of Heaslip, the only member of the squad to have played every minute of the tournament, has enabled them to flourish. The trio have been touted as the best back row in the tournament but O'Driscoll insists they remain grounded despite the plaudits.
"They've been going very well. On their day they're a world-class trio and have been putting in some good performances," he said. "But they know they have some improvements to make in their game as well.
"It's always nice getting plaudits from people outside the camp but at the same time I don't think it will affect their mindset. They're really enjoying along with everyone else the challenges that have been thrown at us and will want to produce it again. They won't let the chat about them affect their performances in any way. The power they bring is important, but we've had powerful ball carriers in the past.
"Maybe people have been surprised by them but we knew they've had that in their armoury for a while and it's been building. Ferris hasn't played an awful lot of rugby. Jamie and Sean have been playing very well for the last year."
In related news, Ireland hooker Rory Best appears to have emerged from his injury cloud after he was included in the team submitted at the deadline for Saturday's game. All matchday squads must be finalised 48 hours before kick-off, in this case 6am BST at Wellington Regional Stadium.
Best's inclusion indicates he has a chance of completing his recovery from his shoulder injury in time to face Wales. The Ulster hooker sprained the AC joint on his right shoulder during Sunday's 36-6 victory over Italy and has been receiving intensive treatment since. He will be given every opportunity to prove his fitness with Sean Cronin ready to step up from the bench should he suffer a setback.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter