IRELAND CAPTAIN BRIAN O’DRISCOLL has given his strongest indications yet that he may stick around for another crack at World Cup success.
Speaking at Carton House on Monday afternoon, O’Driscoll declared that he wants to stay on in the Irish team and gain international recognition by achieving the country’s best ever World Cup finish – semi-finals or better.
The 33-year-old revealed to TheScore.ie that missing out on last year’s Six Nations gave him a glimpse of what he would be giving up.
“It just made me think that I wasn’t ready to give it up yet,” he said. “I’ve missed games in the Six Nations over the years but I never missed a full competition.
“It was tough viewing. At times the team struggled and even when they were doing well it was difficult, too, because they are not missing you.
“It’s a double-edged sword in that regard and testing stuff at that level. I still have a hunger to try and achieve to that standard.” O’Driscoll added:
We’ll deal with the November Series first and, hopefully if I’m still in the mix, the Six Nations next year. After that is still too far away to be considering.
The 33-year-old has been energised by chats with 38-year-old Brad Thorn, who won the Heineken Cup during his three-month sojourn with Leinster last season.
“As a player, I’m always looking to evolve and add things to my game,” he said. “There are definitely aspects of what Thorny brought last year, did for himself, and knowing his own body, which can draw out your ability to play for a few more seasons and to 38.
“I don’t know if I can go that long but I’ll think about going until 34 first.”
Speaking about the World Cup in 2015, O’Driscoll told TheScore.ie:
“There is a real hunger across the squad as you have a number of guys in the Winter of their career like Paulie (O’Connell) and myself, and a lot of young blood coming in.” He added:
You look back to the last World Cup and we had a great chance to do something special, and we didn’t manage to achieve it. Now we have to have a goal for 2015, and for those who are lucky enough to take part in that, to try and get into a semi-final, or better, next time around.
“You constantly hve to reset your goals and that has to be a huge priority in Irish rugby.”
Pulling in the same direction
The captain says the effort has never been lacking from players across the various provinces but the idea of a squad pulling in one direction bears greater scrutiny. He said:
Maybe a bit more thought (should be given) to the level of importance of pulling on a green jersey and representing all four provinces instead of just one.
“I don’t want to take away from the club game,” he added, “because it is your bread and butter but the greatest honour you can have in the game is to play for your country. You want to be considered a great player on an international level, not just in the European game or within your own country.”
O’Driscoll has won three Heineken Cups with Leinster. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)
Ireland would not be regarded as the top side in Europe at present, with Wales, France and England all above them in the world rankings. O’Driscoll recognises that fact and says there is a determination within the squad to improve.
“We want to go out and recapture the form we’ve had in years gone by.” He added:
We managed to finish second in the Six Nations before we won the Grand Slam but we have possibly underachieved since then.
“Absolutely we can (beat South Africa and Argentina). We can beat any team in the world when we get our game right.”
Roll up, roll up
O’Driscoll was speaking at the official launch of ticket sales for the Guinness Series, with games coming up in November against Argentina, Fiji and South Africa.
“Two very important games, against South Africa and Argentina,” said O’Driscoll, “and an opportunity, depending on situations, to give guys some game time against Fiji.
We are optimistic as a squad to put right some of the results of the last year and put in some decent performances.”
A spate of injuries sustained by Irish players led to Declan Kidney calling up six new players to the 30-man training squad.
James Downey, Paul Marshall, Devin Toner, Ian Madigan, Craig Gilroy and Ronan Loughney joined up with the squad at Carton House, Maynooth for the three-day camp.