O’Leary pivotal to Ireland's chances
Displaying exactly the same attitude and appetite as earned him the man of the match accolades for his performance against Wales, Tomas O’Leary admits that the Triple Crown isn’t quite the same as the Grand Slam.
“Obviously there was big disappointment after the French game, knowing that the championship was gone,” the Irish scrum-half said.
“But we quickly set about trying to pick ourselves up and do a Triple Crown.
“Now we’ve done England and Wales, so Scotland will be a massive game.
“Hopefully we can finish off at Croke Park with a Triple Crown.
“Obviously we want to win silverware every year and that (the Triple Crown) is all we can win at the moment. France would need to slip up big time (to be pipped to the Championship) and I don’t think that’s going to happen.
“So it would be good to give the Irish people something to cheer and hopefully we can do that.”
In keeping with the ‘No ‘i’ in team’ ethos he was keen to play down his own part in last Saturday’s triumph which has set up this weekend’s Triple Crown date with the Scots.
“If you’re playing at nine or 10 you’re going to be involved in a lot of things,” was his modest assessment of his role in the creation of both Keith Earls’ tries.
He was equally modest with regard to his own excellent touchdown which followed a feed from his club captain, Paul O’Connell.
And O’Leary was quick — and honest — in dismissing any suggestion that his try was the result of something worked out in advance on the training pitch.
“No,” he smiled. “Paulie just broke and drew in one or two lads and popped it up. There was a massive gap there and thankfully I only had to run in to the corner.”
That’s quite an understatement; no mention of having beaten Leigh Halfpenny on the run-in.
O’Leary also admitted that there had been an element of good fortune to Earls’ second try, of which he was the architect.
“I was lucky; it wasn’t really rehearsed like that. Something else was meant to happen,” he said, without revealing what that was.
Whilst unwilling to dwell on his role in last weekend’s victory he was rather more comfortable when it came to assessing the
overall team effort and the contribution of others in creating this latest Triple Crown opportunity.
“It was a very good first half performance I thought, though in the second half we didn’t play as much rugby and probably kicked a bit aimlessly and put ourselves under a lot of pressure,” he said. “But thankfully our defensive system stood up to the test that Wales threw at us.”
Referring to Ireland’s refusal to let the Welsh breach their line O’Leary said it had been particularly satisfying to keep them at bay given that they are a side noted for scoring tries.
“When you see the firepower they had out wide, to beat Wales and not let them score a try was a big thing,” he said.
“The boys in the pack stood up to a lot of pressure in a five-metre scrum at the start of the second half. They can take a lot of credit for keeping Wales out.”
The victors’ reward is an en masse vote of confidence by their coach; for the third successive RBS 6 Nations Championship match Ireland are unchanged, which means O’Leary and Jonathan Sexton continue at half-back.
And having applauded those up front for their performances against Wales, the scrum-half also had words of support and encouragement for the man forging a partnership alongside him, this despite another disappointing goal-kicking display by Sexton last week.
“Jonathan has kicked unbelievably for Leinster and Ireland this season. He’ll bounce back, no problem,” O’Leary forecast.