Ireland not daunted by Millennium Stadium
March 10, 2011
O'Driscoll insists the Millennium Stadium holds no fear for Ireland © Getty Images
Brian O'Driscoll insists the Millennium Stadium has lost its fear factor after becoming a happy hunting ground for Irish rugby.
Ireland meet Wales in Saturday's Six Nations showdown in Cardiff, the setting for their Grand Slam clinching victory over Warren Gatland's side in 2009. Munster were also crowned Heineken Cup champions at the ground in 2006 and 2008.
"A lot of guys who have played there before have good memories," said O'Driscoll. "The Munster boys won two Heineken Cups there while we have a Slam to remember from the last time we were in Cardiff.
"It's not somewhere we love going to, but it's not somewhere that we fear going to. It's a game that's up for grabs depending on whether you play better than the opposition. And they're the sort of odds you want going into any game."
Ireland have established a remarkable record in Cardiff, where they have lost just once in 12 meetings dating back to 1983. O'Driscoll has enjoyed visiting the Millennium Stadium since it was introduced as a Six Nations venue in 2000.
"It's very, very loud and is definitely one of the best stadiums in the world to play in because of the atmosphere and the noise generated there. The crowd is right in on top of you," he said.
O'Driscoll will line-up opposite Jamie Roberts on Saturday, the player with whom he forged a superb midfield partnership on the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa. "Jamie's a talented footballer, a great ball carrier and a big, hard physical guy who uses his size really well," said O'Driscoll. "He's the sort of guy who accelerates into tackles and knows what his power can do. He's definitely a player of a very high calibre and getting better with each Test he plays. He's a big threat."
O'Driscoll is also an admirer of another Lions team-mate, Ospreys winger Shane Williams. "Wales really tick when Shane Williams is playing well for them," he said. "He gets his hands on the ball a hell of a lot more than most international wingers and he has big moments in big games for them."
In related news, Ireland tighthead Mike Ross insists the increasingly cerebral approach to scrummaging has destroyed the stereotype of the brainless prop. Ross feels the amount of time spent analysing opponents and their technique ensures intellect is every bit as important as brawn in the modern international front row forward.
"A lack of experience can be an advantage to a certain extent, but guys are clever," the 31-year-old Leinster forward said. "The stereotype of the very thick prop doesn't hold true at Test level because if you're stupid, you simply won't survive.
"You can't obsess over footage too much because guys will change to a certain degree as time goes on. But you look at more recent stuff to get an idea of how they scrummage and then see what's caused them trouble in the past and try to formulate a strategy that will help you implement that.
"It gets complex but it's up to you to deal with it. If they're trying to take your space, you need to come up with a strategy to nullify that. That's what I enjoy about it. It's a little bit like chess. You have to come up with strategies to nullify each other. It's like a back-line move that comes off. If you're implementing a scrummaging policy that is causing the opposition maximum difficulty, you do derive satisfaction from that."
Ross' promotion to the team has coincided with a significant improvement in the Irish scrum following a torrid autumn, when calls for his inclusion were ignored. First capped against Canada in 2009, Ross had to wait nearly two years to make his second Test appearance, with his current form begging the question why was he not picked sooner.
The former Harlequins front row admits he has found the transition reasonably comfortable. "When you play Heineken Cup rugby you come up against some good packs who play together week in, week out," Ross added. "That's an advantage a club team will have over an international side. But at international level every single one of the players is decent. There's no weak link there.
"So you have to be a little bit sharper to deal with what comes your way, whether that's something they're doing or the referee's interpretation. Our scrummaging is getting better, but we're not 100% happy with it yet. We're certainly happy with the progression. We need to keep on that upward curve and not regress against Wales this weekend."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September