Ireland’s ‘Colosseum’ awaits France

Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan has challenged his players to turn Croke Park into a “colosseum” that intimidates the opposition.

The stadium will host its first rugby international on Sunday when Ireland meet France in a potentially epic clash that will shape the Six Nations title race.

With double the capacity of Lansdowne Road, which has been closed for redevelopment, O’Sullivan is sure the Gaelic Athletic Association-owned venue will prove inspirational.

He said: “Playing at Croke Park will be a big boost because there will be a lot of excitement, a lot of expectation and a lot of hype around.

“We’ve always had that at Lansdowne Road but there’s that bit extra edge there this weekend.

“It’s the first rugby game at Croke Park and that will heighten the intensity. There will be 82,300 voices, most of them cheering for Ireland for a change.

“Usually, when we go to the big stadiums in Paris or London most of the crowd are cheering for the opposition.

“We also saw that in Cardiff last weekend. Cardiff has become a very difficult place to go and win because of the intensity that the crowd bring to the game.

“I hope that we’ll create our own little colosseum in Croke Park. That will help us to increase the pressure on the opposition.

“Maybe they’ll become a little bit intimidated, which can happen when you’re away from home against a big crowd.

“That’s the type of atmosphere and support we want, that surge of energy that comes from the crowd and that can push the team on.”

The Six Nations will benefit enormously from the addition of Croke Park to its list of venues, but concerns have been raised over the standard of the pitch.

However, O’Sullivan said: “We’re absolutely fine with the pitch. We’ve heard a lot of rumour and speculation but we’re delighted with it.

“We’ve been on it twice. It’s a very good pitch because it’s a very firm pitch, so it’s a fast track.

“It’s a big surface, a huge area. Just getting our bearings when you plop a rugby pitch into the middle of Croke Park, that’s the thing, you know.

“But we’ve had plenty of experience in that area, like in the Subiaco Oval in Australia, so I don’t think it’s a major problem.”

Munster lock Paul O’Connell will captain Ireland following Brian O’Driscoll’s withdrawal because of a hamstring strain.


365 Digital

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