Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

O'Brien needs support - Plumtree

Paul O'Connell must think long and hard about a potential move to France, believes Ronan O'Gara.

Ireland's "world class" openside flanker Sean O'Brien must not be left to combat Michael Hooper and Richie McCaw alone in the next fortnight, according to forwards coach John Plumtree.

Plumtree believes Ireland back-rower O'Brien sits comfortably alongside renowned Australia seven Hooper and All Blacks captain McCaw.

But he has warned the rest of Ireland's pack that equal status does not mean O'Brien can handle those big threats by himself.

Ireland host Australia in Dublin on Saturday where they will bid to build on their 40-9 opening autumn international victory over Samoa.

Wallabies' flanker Hooper will be desperate to disrupt Ireland's rhythm this weekend, while McCaw will aim to do likewise a week later.

As a result, Plumtree has challenged Ireland's entire pack to stop the two standout stars from shining at the breakdown.

He explained: "It's not all about one person, that's for sure.

"Sean's going to need help and support in that area, and it's up to the rest of the pack as a start to make sure they do support him.

"If he's carrying the ball really well we're going to need our cleaners in there quickly, and if he does get his hands on the ball in defence, we're going to need to support him in there as well in terms of stealing ball.

"So it's really not all about one person, and it's unfair to put a lot of pressure on Sean O'Brien to be competing with Richie McCaw, Hooper or whoever else.

"It's a team game, and certainly from a pack perspective it's important that our pack works closely together, whether that's scrum, line-out, carrying ball or defending. It's got to be a team thing.

"I think Sean is right up there in that world class, right up there with those two in the next two weeks but I think all the boys across our back row have great quality.

"If they stick together and stay tight, believe in each other, then they will be okay.

"If even one person doesn't believe in themselves, or what we're trying to achieve, then we've got a passenger.

"I'm just looking forward to seeing these boys playing against this Australian side, so they can measure themselves and I'm sure that's going to happen."

Plumtree knows any defensive line dog-legs will be impossible for Australia's livewire pivot Quade Cooper to resist.

Calling on Ireland to shut half-backs Cooper and Will Genia down, he continued: "You've certainly got to work together to combat Cooper.

"He looks for opportunities against individuals that push out of the line, he likes really fast ball.

"So we've got to try to deny him that, but defensively he can be a real handful with his partnership with Genia, they've got a real understanding of each other's play.

"That's been a big focus this week, but I guess Quade's used to hearing that.

"He's got a bag of tricks that needs to be looked after and when he's playing with confidence and front-foot ball he can be a real handful."