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Monday, 10 December, 2001, 14:37 GMT
Fast Eddie ready to roll
BBC Online's Jim Stokes talks to new Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan.
Eddie O'Sullivan emerged from the debris of Warren Gatland's dismissal with only one thing on his mind - success.
O'Sullivan, an articulate wordsmith, is determined to take Ireland on to another plane.
He wants to boldly go where no Irish team has gone before.
But before he started in earnest, the 43-year-old Munster-born coach has had to duck under the hail of bullets fired at the IRFU after their move not to extend Gatland's international contract.
The silence emanating from along the corridors of 62 Lansdowne Road did not exactly help matters, nor O'Sullivan for that matter.
But whatever the reason, O'Sullivan was handed the job, and he did not waste much time building the blocks for the future.
''I started making preparations right away and then got stuck into the job two hours after I had been told,'' said O'Sullivan.
''I went to Donnybrook to see Leinster play Newport and then had a very productive talk with the captain of the national side on my way home to Galway.
''Keith Wood was at his home in Clare on a family matter and we discussed a number of things pertaining to the future.
''That excited me. So within 24 hours I had detailed plans in my mind of what I had to do.
''The following week I was putting my thoughts into action.
''I have talked to a number of the senior players and really got down to the business end of things.
''I will talk to all the squad when we have a session on the second weekend of January when we will be preparing for the game against Wales,'' said O'Sullivan, who many believe was a major influence in the rise in Ireland's stature.
''There is no doubt we have improved enormously,'' said O'Sullivan.
''We just changed our style of approach.
''Ireland were famous for their forward influence. In the past we used our forwards to get over the gain line, now we use our backs more.
''We have engineered space and got forward momentum through our backs and the forwards have then been able to fed off them to take the ball on.
''The reversal of Ireland's former game plan has helped us a lot.
''We have been able to do this because we have the backs available to us to play that type of game.
''The one thing that we have not been able to do is to continue to play consistently at a high level.
''We have proved that we can play right at the top level already this season, but the key is to be able to do it regularly,'' said O'Sullivan, who believes a coach has to be involved in mind games.
''As a coach you have to be a psychologist as well.
''A coach has to convince his players that anything is possible.
''And you can simply convince them by giving them goals that they know they can achieve and that they can measure.
''Simple things like the type of line-out ball they can win, the scrums they produce and the type of tackles they make.
''If you can create an environment for players to execute those, you will put together good performances.
''Really a coach is someone who accommodates players,'' said O'Sullivan, who believes that his paymasters have finally got the structures right in Ireland.
''They have got everything in place there's no doubt about that, particularly pertaining to the national team.
''They've got all the levels there in a pipeline feeding the international side.
''But that's not enough though. The key is the management of that structure.
''For example, we still have a problem with our top players playing too many games.
''Personally I would like that managed to such a degree that our players play 25 games a year.
''Getting a very balanced approach to their playing and recovery is difficult.
''But it is critical. That allows you to develop, and developing players is the key process in Irish rugby going forward,'' said O'Sullivan, who will not be lonely on the training field.
''One of my first jobs is to build a team of coaches around me.
''I want to change the environment for the players.
''I want to develop a system which is streamed from the American system,'' said the man from Youghal who spent a fruitful three years with US Eagles before coming on board with Ireland in 1999.
''It will be a sea-change for some to see a number of coaches working on the pitch together with the players.
''To a certain extent that happened with Warren (Gatland) and myself.
''So it will be a matter of maximising the expertise that is available,'' said O'Sullivan, who could be calling up some big-name back-up.
O'Sullivan, of course, has already Munster maestro Declan Kidney on board as his assistant.
It has been well documented that O'Sullivan and Kidney are not supposedly on each other's Christmas list.
''Nonsense,'' says O'Sullivan, who put the matter straight.
''Look, when Declan was with Munster, he had different priorities.
''Like all the other provincial coaches they are all working to their own agenda.
''The availability of their players and how they are managed is their main concern.
''Naturally Declan wanted the best for his players when they played in Europe and the Celtic League.
''Now his priorities will change, and I know that we will be a good team together,'' said O'Sullivan, who at the end of the 2004 Six Nations wants to be remembered for making Ireland a team to fear.
''At the end of it all, I hope to see Ireland playing rugby at a consistently high level and be a genuine threat to any team in the world.''
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Decision time for IRFU
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