O'Driscoll plays down Grand Slam talk
February 28, 2009
Brian O'Driscoll lands a drop goal at Croke Park © Getty Images
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll refused to contemplate the Grand Slam despite today's 14-13 victory over England at Croke Park.
The Irish preserved their 100% record in the Six Nations after three rounds, cementing their place at the summit of the table following Wales' defeat in Paris last night. Victory over Scotland in a fortnight would sweep them within one match of a first Grand Slam for 61 years, yet man of the match O'Driscoll will look no further than Murrayfield.
"Nothing has changed for us. We'll give Scotland exactly the same respect we gave France, Italy and England," he said. "We're talking about Scotland and them alone. Murrayfield is a tough place to go - I know that from experience.
"Any side can beat any other in this tournament. That's what makes it so hard to win. We'll enjoy this victory tonight and then start focusing all of our attention on Murrayfield."
It was the least convincing win of Ireland's tournament so far as they struggled to finish a muscular England side that had little brain to match their brawn. O'Driscoll bagged a try and drop-goal to compliment Ronan O'Gara's two penalties but a late converted touchdown from Delon Armitage caused a few nervous glances from the dugout.
"The ending was a little nerve-wracking. We made it harder for ourselves than we needed to conceding when we did near the end," he said. "But we played it out and won. We didn't stress ourselves, just did what we needed to.
"There were a few opportunities out there. That was one of the more physical matches played in a long, long time. "England have been in three World Cup finals and are a huge team to beat.
"We enjoy winning against them because we know how hard it is. It wasn't the perfect performance but we're happy to have beaten England, albeit by one point."
O'Driscoll was the victim of two borderline challenges from Riki Flutey and Armitage - only the latter was awarded as a penalty - yet the Lions skipper had no complaints.
"I'm sore now and will know in the morning that I've been in a hard Test match," he said. "You expect that against the better teams in the world. The challenges hurt. I'm not here to be judging what sort of tackles they were. I won't hold grudges against the players."
Angry Martin Johnson slammed England's lack of discipline after they conceded 18 penalties and had Phil Vickery and Danny Care sin-binned, taking their yellow card tally to 10 in four matches.
"I thought we handled them defensively pretty well in the first half but the penalties weren't great by half-time and it got worse," said Johnson. "I said to the players after the game, you cost yourselves the game. Face facts, it was a big effort, they did some things very well at times but if you give away 18 penalties you are going to lose.
"The one that really changed the game was Danny's. It was 11-6, it made it 14-6 and we had no scrum-half for 10 minutes. The focus this week has been not giving penalties away and trusting our defence and being accurate in that area - and they have done it again.
"I am angry for them, not me. We have gone toe to toe with one of the better teams in Europe, a team that could win this championship. We were under pressure at times and at times we had them under pressure - but if you give 18 penalties away you are not going to win."
Johnson said it was too early to decide whether any players would pay for the indiscipline with their place in the side. "It is not the same people but we will be talking about it for two weeks (before playing France)," he said.
"These are in big passionate one-off games here. We were playing in a volatile, passionate place and despite the penalties we kept ourselves in game very well and we handled what they had to throw at us attacking wide," he said. "That makes it all the more frustrating. We didn't need to give penalties away because we weren't getting broken in defence.
"Two weeks ago against Wales I thought we had a chance to win. This week we certainly did. They have to understand they have cost themselves a Test match. We have conceded one try way from home again. The defence is good, we have got to trust it."
Monday Maul takes in retirement talk, England reshuffles, France's unfair advantage and Scotland's communication breakdown
John Griffiths takes an analytical look at Week 3 of ESPN Scrum's Fantasy Rugby game - who should you have picked?
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin
With the World Cup only a few months away, the last thing France needed was doubts over the future of their coach, writes Huw Richards