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Irish won’t get backs up over rule change

Irish backs Brian O’Driscoll and Tommy Bowe yesterday joined coach Declan Kidney in refusing to enter the controversy surrounding the new hard-line interpretation of the law regarding what is permissible at the breakdown.

All three insisted it is up to the players and coaching staff to adapt.

Ireland have run foul of Southern Hemisphere referees in their past two outings, conceding a string of penalties against England and Wales.

The man in the middle at Twickenham was South Africa’s Mark Lawrence, who repeatedly found fault with Irish attempts to pinch ball.

And his fellow-countryman, Craig Joubert, penalised Ireland 16 times last weekend at Croke Park, sometimes to their evident frustration.

A third South African referee, Jonathan Kaplan, will officiate on Saturday evening when Ireland meet Scotland in Dublin.

The stricter interpretation of an already-existing law has been at the behest of Southern Hemisphere giants New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, with many purists arguing that the changes with regard to relieving opponents of the ball is edging Rugby Union closer to its 13-man League equivalent.

However, the real controversy stems from the fact that it has been introduced mid-way through the current RBS 6 Nations Championship.

But yesterday Kidney was diplomacy personified in saying: “There’s no point going on about something you have no control over.

“We have a fair idea of what the emphasis and interpretation of certain sections (of the law) are going to be so we have worked on that.”

Bowe agreed: “It’s just another thing that we have to work on. For every match that we play there’s different work-outs for different teams. While this is more on the law side of things, it’s just part and parcel of what we do weekly.

“It has been working in the Southern Hemisphere so obviously it’s just a matter of us getting used to it.”

Skipper O’Driscoll, whose superb tackling in the centre is crucial to Ireland’s excellent defence, was equally unwilling to enter the controversy, saying: “We’re finding out what it is they want and we’ll get used to that. It’s up to us to adapt.”

Backs coach Alan Gaffney had, earlier this week, offered an assessment of how those in the camp, it could be speculated, really feel.

“The way it's heading at the moment, it's weighing very heavily on the attacking side and that's not right,” he said.

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