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Wood urges O'Sullivan to gamble
PA Sport
January 17, 2008

Ireland great Keith Wood has urged coach Eddie O'Sullivan to take a gamble in selection for the RBS 6 Nations - but warned against making wholesale changes

The Irish open their campaign against Italy on February 2 and O'Sullivan must decide whether to keep faith with his World Cup flops or inject some fresh blood.

Wood insists the core of the side used in France must be retained with the addition of one or two wildcard picks that could reap dividends in the future.

"Eddie needs to drip feed new guys in," said Wood. "I don't think there will be drastic changes. Eddie needs to win matches to stop speculation over his future, so I expect him to stick with what he knows.

"But he also needs to give fringe players more game time and take a gamble when he chooses his team.

"One gamble in a team is acceptable, not four or five. Then he has to stick with that player.

"He must avoid doing what England did with Mathew Tait after the 2003 World Cup, picking him and then dropping him. That was very unfair.

"He was an obvious talent and having picked him, maybe a little too early in my eyes, they had to stick with him."

Wood, who won 58 caps and was Brian O'Driscoll's predecessor as Ireland skipper, believes the players that misfired at the World Cup should be allowed to rebuild their battered reputations.

"These guys deserve a chance to prove themselves. The entire team played badly in the World Cup and that suggests it wasn't only them to blame," he said.

Wood is pleased in-form Connacht openside Johnny O'Connor has been restored to the squad and recalls his first encounter with the 27-year-old.

"I remember when I first met Johnny. I knew nothing of him when he'd been brought into an Ireland training session," added Wood, the official Bushmills Whiskey Ambassador.

"After the session I told (Ireland coach) Warren Gatland to pick him at openside.

"Warren said Johnny wasn't ready and while I admitted it would be a very bold selection, I felt he offered something different.

"At one point in the training session he chased me for 75 yards and I wanted to give up, but couldn't because I had some young fella on my heels.

"And when he landed on me after I'd scored, he put a little cheap shot in!

"I thought that was great because the guy wanted to be there. He wasn't hiding."

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