Ireland 36-6 Italy, Rugby World Cup, October 2, 2011
O'Driscoll pleased with clinical win
October 2, 2011
Ireland skipper Brian O'Driscoll scores against Italy © Getty Images
Captain Brian O'Driscoll was delighted with the way Ireland responded to the knowledge that defeat against Italy would have ended their World Cup.
The Irish set up a quarter-final against Wales in Wellington on Saturday after flattening the Azzurri 36-6 at Otago Stadium to finish the group stage as Pool C winners. Facing the prospect of a heartbreaking end to a tournament that has promised so much, Ireland once again displayed their big-game temperament to storm into the knockout stage.
"We're very pleased with the way we've come through the pool in first place," said O'Driscoll. "We didn't bring results into this World Cup but we never panicked. We came here with big belief in our ability and what we're capable of and we've managed to deliver a couple of times.
"We've got ourselves in a place where we're playing Wales for a place in the semi-finals and that's all we could have hoped for at this stage. We knew it would take a good while to grind Italy down and we were clinical in the chances we took.
"There was a distinct pressure on us to perform because it was win or go home. When it's that cut and dry your backs are against the wall. There was definitely an added element of pressure, but we responded well to it."
Ireland led only 9-6 at half-time but exploded into life after the interval with Keith Earls scoring two tries and O'Driscoll also crossing the whitewash. Ronan O'Gara finished with 16 points in a near faultless display that all but guarantees he will start against Wales next weekend.
It was a professional performance from Ireland, who now have a real chance of progressing beyond the quarter-finals for the first time. Once again they were cheered on by hordes of travelling supporters who formed virtually the entirety of the 28,027 crowd, creating a superb atmosphere.
"That was the best support we've had yet. It was a sea of green. Everywhere you looked it was there," said O'Driscoll. "Our job was to give them something to cheer about. They got behind us in spades.
"It was just like playing at Lansdowne Road. In fact I've played in Dublin in the past when the support hasn't been that good. That says it all for the travelling Irish support and the expats who live in this part of the world.
"There are also the Kiwis who have jumped on board supporting us as well. We'll welcome anyone who'll wear green and shout for us."
Wellington will host the mouthwatering contest between two teams in outstanding form and O'Driscoll expects the all-Six Nations showdown to be tight.
"The games have been incredibly close over last eight years, certainly in my career," he said. "They've beaten us in Dublin, we've beaten them in Cardiff. It will be an incredibly close game.
"It will just be about which team plays a bit better on the day. There's not much between the sides."
Ireland coach Declan Kidney is relishing the prospect of another knockout match.
"It will be like a Six Nations game because the players know each other so well, space will be cut down," he said. "It will be like a cup final. That's what this competition is all about. Today was a cup final and thankfully we've qualified for another one."
The performance did not come without cost, however, as hooker Rory Best left the pitch with what appeared to be a significant shoulder injury. Also marring the contest was Leonardo Ghiraldini's attempted eye-gouge on Cian Healy, an incident that was missed by referee Jonathan Kaplan but will surely interest the citing commissioner.
Italy were fired up and frequently overstepped the line of acceptability.
"Our discipline was very good. It's always fiery when there's that much at stake," said O'Driscoll.
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