Ireland hooker Rob Herring has refuted the claim from Brian O’Driscoll about there being a lack of ‘dog’ in the Ireland pack.
O’Driscoll spoke last week about how Ireland packs of the past would have had the likes of Paul O’Connell, Denis Leamy or Sean O’Brien present. These players were able to lay down a physical marker on the opposition but the Ireland legend questioned whether that type of player exists in the current Ireland team.
“We don’t have it in the second row,” O’Driscoll said.
“We’ve two great athletes but I don’t think it exists. A little bit in Tadhg Furlong and Cian [Healy] but not to the Sean O’Brien or Paulie [O’Connell] or [Denis] Leamy [level].”
These comments have clearly infiltrated the Ireland camp and when Herring was asked about those comments at a press conference on Thursday, he made it quite clear that he didn’t agree.
“I would disagree with that because I don’t really know what it’s based on,” Herring said.
“I don’t know what he’s seen in our club games to think that.
“Andy’s picked a team or squad he thinks will deliver on that aspect. Obviously we have to go out and do it still, but yeah I’d disagree because I can’t see what it’s based on.”
Johnny Sexton mentioned O’Driscoll’s comments on Thursday too but he believes that you don’t necessarily need that type of player anymore as long as you have players that work hard.
“I know a lot has been made about ‘do we have a dog’ in the team and stuff like that but in the modern game, you just need guys who are willing to work hard,” Sexton said.
“You have to have that intent that you spoke about but hopefully, we’ll show a little bit of that at the weekend.”
For Herring, Saturday will be a special day. He looks set to make his ninth appearance for Ireland but this will be his first start in the Six Nations. It’s also a vote of confidence from the management that he can lay a claim to the starting hooker spot in the wake of Rory Best’s retirement.
"It’s about being nasty and physically imposing and that’s why I always loved playing with Sean O’Brien."
Have Ireland lost that edge?https://t.co/iA5WS13rKm
— Pundit Arena (@PunditArena) January 27, 2020
“This might be my fourth campaign, I’ve never managed to get on the pitch so it’s been something I’ve been working towards for a long time now, something I’ve dreamt about so to be given the opportunity is something special. I’ve just got to cherish it now and take my chance.”
Herring will have to wary of the meteoric rise of Leinster’s Ronan Kelleher. The young hooker is named on the bench and will likely make his international debut on Saturday. The Ulster hooker admits he has been impressed with what he has seen from Kelleher in training.
“He’s been impressive. He’s come in off the back of an injury. Just seeing him in and around training, he’s a pretty big boy. He’s pretty confident as well. We’ve Heff [Dave Heffernan] as well, who’s a really strong hooker and he’s been playing really well.
“There’s a lot of competition within the squad and I think that’s what makes you better. If you want to be driving the highest standards in and out of training, that’s what you need. No one’s place is safe. We’re all trying to stick our hands up to get that number two jersey.”