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Team is the key word for Irish: O'Driscoll has the final say over Gatland with more than a little help from mates

O'Driscoll has the final say over gatland with more than a little help from mates

By Tony Ward

For the second week running the man above played his part and for the second week running the home team delivered in kind.

The heaven-sent break in the horrendous spell of weather took the winning and losing of this massive game beyond a lottery and very much to the advantage of the team in green. Exactly as Joe Schmidt would have wanted and how he and his meticulously prepared team prospered.

Whether the Welsh deserved to ship the drubbing they did is debateable but that the better team won much more convincingly than anyone could have predicted is beyond dispute. It wasn't the perfect performance – Schmidt doesn't want that just yet – but for his opening two games in this competition I'm not too sure he could have asked for more of himself or his team.

There is room for improvement still, particularly with the English juggernaut next up, but building on the slower steadier start against the Scots this on Saturday was the real deal. A clinical, professional, performance from all 23 oozing of rhyme and reason.

There was a sense of purpose to everything we witnessed from Team Ireland and therein lies the key word. This was in every sense a definitive TEAM performance. Guys playing with and for each other and laying bodies on the line as if there were no tomorrow.

That doesn't happen by chance. It is a direct result of a happy, focused, well organised camp with a unity of purpose in preparation and match day execution.

The first part of the mission is now complete with the second part of the planned three- phase attack next up. We will leave the English challenge and all that entails for another day other than saying this new squad under its new coach couldn't be in a better place heading for south west London in a fortnight.

This performance and the manner of it reflected in most every way the personality of the coach. On show was controlled mayhem, aggressive defending, brute physicality at the breakdown but, at the same time, a measured calmness with clear and obvious accuracy in passing and lines of support. It is the winning cocktail he brought to Leinster rugby beginning to manifest itself slowly but surely a level up.

But there is an added dimension.

Schmidt is a thinking coach and a thinking man's coach who trusts in the input of those who surround him, chiefly Les Kiss and John Plumtree, but is still not afraid to go with his gut.

When players believe in management and trust in the system then the most fundamental plank is in place. Just five matches in and already the transition is there for all to see.

It is great psychology too whereby the work behind the scenes off the field almost demands the appropriate level of performance (in appreciation) on it.

That at the end of the day is the very bottom line and on Saturday we got it in spades. Warren Gatland's Wales weren't just out muscled but were out thought too.

Personally I have great difficulty warming to the former Ireland and Lions head coach. His record of achievement for Wasps, Wales and the Lions is exceptional and credit the man for that but when it comes to humility he still has much to learn.

This game was NEVER about Gatland v Brian O'Driscoll. NEVER. But what it was about was a team walking the walk in support of its most revered player.

To that add the performance of the player himself and two incidents worthy of recording.

The first came courtesy of Scott Williams and an opening quarter tackle that was at best marginally legit. It winded O'Driscoll badly, necessitating a number of minutes to recompose.

But it was when the cameras panned away that the extraordinarily combative nature of this truly great player was there to be seen. As he retook his midfield position alongside Gordon D'Arcy – another who excelled in everything he did – he made a point of staring both Welsh centre down but specifically Williams.

In that moment, with that loaded stare and measured grin, it was O'Driscoll saying "you've had your shot, I'm still here".

A couple of minutes later he did a Roberts impersonation when taking the ball full tilt into the Welsh duo but up and over the gain line. Soon after it was the Welsh inside centre making his way ashore. Take from that what you will.

The second involved a third quarter attempted tackle on Roberts when the big centre managed to break free.

It was the last he missed as from then to the final whistle he and D'Arcy mowed everything in sight.

This was REAL revenge and the best possible antidote for what happened down under.

The team delivering a comprehensive thumping, and the player central to that controversy, giving his all for the collective cause.

O'Driscoll is a star among stars but first and foremost he is an out and out team player in every game he plays. Never but never has he got those priorities mixed up.

Belfast Telegraph


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