Irish captain Paul O’Connell stated that it’s the start of a different era as Ireland prepare for their first tour without the soon-to-be retired Brian O’Driscoll.
Joe Schmidt added that if there is a position they are light, it is at centre, but added he hopes to try a few players out at centre as international life without O’Driscoll begins.
“It’s the start of, I suppose, a different era without him around the dressing room, on the pitch, his influence and his confidence around the place,” said O’Connell who added that others have already stepped up to the mark in replacing the Irish centre. “Aa lot of players have been stepping up in the leadership role off the pitch and on the pitch over those last few years. It’s obviously disappointing he has moved on but it is part of a cycle. We have seen the likes of Rog and various players moving on in recent years but it’s just part of the cycle and you have to get on with it.”
Having never toured to Argentina O’Connell is looking forward to it and is excited with the three uncapped forwards who have been named in the side. Fellow Provincial teammate James Cronin and Ulster pair Robbie Diack and Rob Herring will hope to make their first appearance up front while Connacht’s Kieran Marmion is the only debutant named among the backs.
Debutants infectious enthusiasm
“It’s always great to see guys in the squad with the asterisk beside their name and no caps. Their enthusiasm is infectious. I know James Cronin for the last season has been a pleasure to be around in Munster. You look at some of the guys, I spoke with James Cronin on the phone last night and he was incredibly excited and delighted to be called dup. I think that brought a bit of a smile to my face.
“It’s a great time to be involved in Ireland and an exciting time as well. One of the big things Joe had with Leinster down the years was competition for places and it was a big part of how Leinster performed so well. You look at some of the guys going on tour in the next two weeks that’s going to add further depth to our squad and more competition which is a good thing.”
With Munster’s defeat at the hands of Glasgow in the Rabo Pro12 semi-final still fresh in the memory, O’Connell hopes to
“The way the season’s finished for us in Munster is disappointing. To have been in two semi-finals and not to have won either or performed as well as we would’ve like to is really disappointing. But the buzz around the Irish camp after winning the 6 Nations, the buzz around the few new players here does give you a lift and it’s an exciting time to be involved in Ireland.”
World Cup preparation
The upcoming tour to Argentina represents the beginning of Ireland’s preparation for the World Cup which starts in September 2015 as Joe Schmidt looks to create competitiveness within his squad. Ireland defeated the Argentinians in their last battle with Los Pumas in Autumn 2012, in a 46-24 demolition at the Aviva. O’Connell sees this as another step up as Ireland face their first international test as 6 Nations Champions.
“It will be a really tough challenge for us. They are playing a lot more rugby then they have done in the past with the various tournaments they have been involved in since March. They will be a well prepared side and a very tough physical tour. It does come into your mind. For me it is trying to maximise the time we have left and try to be as good as I can be in the time I have left. I have to manage my traning.”
With 23 players having been released by Provinces or had to retire this summer, the short time frame of a professional career has come into O’Connell’s mind. With an eye on the World Cup next year, he hopes to begin his own preparation with this tour and a good pre-season with Munster, something he hasn’t been involved in since pre-season of 2011 before the World Cup of that year.
“I have a nice two weeks window now. It’s unfortiunate not to be involed in any finals, but I’ve a nice two week window to train and prepare for the tour. I’m hopeful of getting a good pre-season. I haven’t had a pre-season since the pre-season we had for the World Cup in 2011 and it really is hard to perform at the best of your ability when you don’t have that pre-season under your belt.
“For me, it’s about getting that good pre-season in, playing next year, managing my body like I did this year and hopefully get a good pre-season in next year before the world Cup. It is all about maximising time and trying to be as good as I can be when I do play.”