Ireland v France, Six Nations Championship, February 7
O'Leary eyes Six Nations silverware
February 5, 2009
O'Leary in action for Munster during this year's Heineken Cup © Getty Images
Ireland scrum-half Tomas O'Leary has admitted he and his team-mates are desperate to end their trophy drought in the upcoming Six Nations.
O'Leary will make his tournament debut against France at Croke Park on Saturday and is determined to help Ireland end a trophy-less spell which stretches back to 1985. "A lot of the lads here have been tipping away and knocking on the door for the last five or six years aiming to win a Six Nations title," said the Munster number nine.
"I can definitely see they want to win it badly and I'm no different coming into this environment. I want success. That's all that is going to be acceptable for us. They've been knocking on the door and want it bad. I wouldn't say the older player are anxious, it's just ambition. Fellows don't want to retire in five or six years and look back and say, 'We should have won a Grand Slam', or, 'We should have won a Six Nations'.
"The fact we haven't won a Six Nations or even looked like winning a Grand Slam speaks for itself in terms of how difficult a competition it is to win. If we could win a Six Nations it would be a brilliant achievement."
The 25-year-old is now seen as first choice for both club and country after patiently serving his apprenticeship behind the long-serving Peter Stringer, who in a reversal of roles is now the deputy. O'Leary is grateful to have had such a high-quality mentor, even if it meant he had to bide his time for a regular starting place.
"Peter is a great player," O'Leary said. "I learned what I can from Peter. I still try to do that and the competition is great for both of us. It makes you train harder and develop aspects of our game. I suppose the key thing is not to panic and not to get too frustrated. There are times when you do get impatient. You try to stay fresh and work harder - that's what I did."
O'Leary rejected suggestions the Munster and Leinster players place Heineken Cup glory ahead of Six Nations success, adding: "Definitely not, that's rubbish. It's the ultimate honour to play for Ireland. You're representing your country."
The number nine also welcomed the fact he will be playing alongside Munster team-mate and Ireland lynchpin Ronan O'Gara in what is only O'Leary's fourth game for his country.
"I've been playing with Ronan for the last few years, knowing his game and him getting used to mine," O'Leary added. "It's great to have that sort of guy beside you for the direction he gives and the experience he has. He is a class footballer as well. He's brilliant to have beside you."