Wood backs fragile Ireland
PA Sport
February 21, 2008

Ireland legend Keith Wood is confident under-pressure coach Eddie O'Sullivan will taste the victory he craves on Saturday when Scotland come to Dublin - but warns that the national team is only a couple of injuries away from crisis.

O'Sullivan has had little to smile about since securing a four-year deal before last year's World Cup finals.

The Irish flopped in France and have not had the best of starts to the RBS 6 Nations tournament either, scraping past Italy and then losing in Paris.

Former British and Irish Lion Wood, who was capped 58 times as hooker from 1994 to 2003, is confident of success against Scotland at Croke Park on Saturday as the visitors are finding wins even harder to come by.

He said: ''Ireland will win. Even though we haven't been at our best we have an ability to score tries, which Scotland don't seem to have at the moment.

''Scotland have made changes but whether that will give them enough to beat Ireland, I just don't see that at the moment.''

But the former Harlequins and Munster man admitted he was worried about a lack of strength in depth, particularly where the talismanic Ronan O'Gara was concerned.

He said: ''We have too many foreign players playing in Ireland. We only have three teams really and a lot of foreign players in those.

''I don't have any objection to any of them playing in Ireland, the problem is that only three teams play in the European Cup. We only have a couple of centres playing who are Irish-qualified so that means we don't have the strength in depth.

''The big flaw - and maybe the only flaw - with the Irish system is that with only three teams if you suddenly have a spate of injuries then you have no players.

''We have been blessed that Ronan O'Gara has never been injured. Anything he has picked up, he has never been out for more than a week or two weeks.

''We have three out-halves (fly-half) in Ireland and one is Felipe Contepomi (of Argentina). So effectively we have two out-halves, Paddy Wallace and Ronan. If we have an injury to either of those then we are in a difficult situation.

''When I started it was an entirely amateur game. We had an All-Ireland League structure that was hugely energised, there were big crowds at matches and there were 10 or 12 teams.

''I'm not saying we should go back to that but we need a level of high quality below provincial level. We need to see more players more often. We could have difficult times in the years ahead.''

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