We chat with
as the Champions Cup Starts Up Again
In the new issue of PLAY magazine – check it out right here! – we asked Ronan O’Gara why the back-to-back games in the Heineken Champions Cup were so special…but we couldn’t leave it at that! And so, before the action resumes with Saracens’ visit to the Cardiff Blues on Saturday (live on Virgin Media One from 12.30pm, Virgin TV 103), we chatted with the legend of Irish rugby on the state of the competition so far – and what we can expect from a massive fortnight ahead…
We’re coming off an eventful few weeks at international level – does that have an impact on players heading back to their clubs?
No, not at all. A week in sport is a long time, never mind two! You’ll come back into a different atmosphere, a different environment, and even the game against New Zealand will suddenly be a distant memory…
Let’s start at home – and your old home! – with Munster. Is ‘slow and steady’ a fair assessment?
That’s a bit harsh, I think. The draw against Exeter was an exceptional start; they were going well as one of England’s form sides. The Gloucester game, having been at Thomond Park for it, you got a feeling fairly early that the bonus point was on. They’d have taken a bonus point loss and a bonus point win, so they’re ahead of where they might have been.
How about “the new you,” Joey Carberry? What have you made of his start in red?
I think he’s been brilliant, I really do. He’s an exciting player, no doubt about it; his speed, and his change of pace as a runner are things you love to see. I think we’re maybe expecting unrealisting things from a 22-year-old as far as game management is concerned, but that’ll happen in time. He’s such an enthusiastic player, and even at this age he lifts the standards of the buys around him. It’s given the fans belief too, which is very important.
After their opening heroics against Wasps, some people thought Leinster were invincible – does the Toulouse defeat change the complexion of things?
Well, I don’t think Munster, or Saracens, or Racing, or anyone like that believed they were invincible! There was probably an overreaction by some people to the first game; Leinster were very good, but I thought Wasps were very disappointing for a team with such history and integrity. And then the second game – well, it’s the beauty of sport, isn’t it? Noone gave Toulouse any chance whatsoever, and you’d have to say they were deserving winners. It’s probably given Leinster a bit of a jolt, but it’s given other sides some optimism as well.
Turning away from the big guns, Newcastle are riding high so far – is there still room in this competition for a dark horse?
Well, Newcastle beating Montpellier was certainly impressive. The other side of that, though, is how Montpellier were struggling in the French league at the time. The English and French teams know relegation is a possibility in domestic terms and coaches – being coaches! – have to think about that. You’ll see that play out during these Champions Cup fixtures too; a team that’s zero from three, and basically out of the competition, probably isn’t going to stack their team. That might sound awful, but it’s a fact…
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