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The heart has been ripped out of the Irish team - Conor O'Shea

The former Irish fullback spoke to Patrick McCarry about “ferocious” injuries, coaching abroad and Declan Kidney’s job.

Conor O'Shea has affirmed his commitment to Harlequins.
Conor O'Shea has affirmed his commitment to Harlequins.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

FORMER IRELAND FULLBACK Conor O’Shea believes Ireland need to match their potential to challenge the best sides in world rugby.

The Harlequins director of rugby revealed to TheScore.ie that a ferocious run of injuries to key players has caused untold trouble to Declan Kidney and his coaching staff.

He said, “No matter how strong you are, you don’t want the heart ripped out of your team.

“To lose O’Connell, O’Brien, Best, Kearney, O’Driscoll – an absolute legend at centre – that is the spine of your team.

“It’s a ferocious thing for a group to have to take on board.”

Having guided Harlequins to the Premiership title in May 2012 and encouraged a team, containing internationals such as Danny Care, Nick Evans and Chris Robshaw, to play attacking rugby, O’Shea has been widely mentioned as the man to step in when Kidney’s contract with Ireland is up.

“My job is Quins,” he said. “Full-stop. Declan Kidney is an outstanding coach and will be. You know the pressure he is under.

“As Dick Best said before, back-slapping and back-stabbing are a heartbeat away. That’s sport.”

Losing streak

O’Shea feels that Ireland’s current losing streak of five games has been ‘made into a massive issue’.

He said, “They played three games away to New Zealand, where we have never beaten the All Blacks, and lost 16-12 to South Africa.

“I’ve found over the years that you could lose your last game of the season and first of the next and hear that you haven’t won a game since April.” He added:

But you certainly don’t like losing and you can be sure the players are hurting. It’s a horrible place to be.

“No one likes to be where they are at the moment.”

“All they can do is carry on and keep playing as a group,” he commented. “It’s when the doubt starts creeping in that you are in trouble.

“You don’t focus on trying to win, you focus on the process. If you can play to your potential the results will look after themselves.

“If the All Blacks play to their potential, there’s nothing you can do. That’s not being defeatist, it’s being realistic.”

Coaching abroad

Capped 35 times for Ireland before a knee injury curtailed his career in 2000, O’Shea had spells as director of rugby and managing director at former club London Irish before he was appointed to a developmental role at the Rugby Football Union.

He took over at The Stoop in 2010 and delivered an Amlin Challenge Cup and a Premiership title to Quins.

O’Shea denies that Irish coaches are not getting a fair shot at coaching here and declares that overseas roles may suit their development. He told TheScore.ie:

Just because you have the New Zealanders [Joe Schmidt, Rob Penney and Mark Anscombe] in doesn’t mean an Irish coach can’t do it but there’s no harm trying something new.

“New Zealand is the best rugby playing nation in the world so there is no harm learning something from them.”

Coaching roles, he adds, are not just available in the Premiership.

“There’s the Top 14,” said O’Shea. “Michael Bradley is with Edinburgh, Simon Easterby is with Scarlets. Kevin Maggs is coaching at Moseley. Go wherever you can earn your stripes.”

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Patrick McCarry

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