About RTÉ Television
The Afternoon Show
The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

Brent Pope

Friday, 27 November 2009

Brent was in the original 1987 New Zealand Rugby World Cup training squad but had to withdraw due to injury.
. He played nearly 100 first class games for Otago.
. He came to Ireland in 1991 where he played for both St Marys and Clontarf RFC.
. He has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from New Zealand.
. Brent has written five children's books.
. Brent appeared on The Restaurant and cooked New Zealand lamb.
. Brent is a rugby pundit with George Hook and Conor O'Shea on RTE. He has been doing that for 15 years.

How do you think the autumn Internationals have gone so far?
Obviously from an Irish perspective - it has gone pretty much to be expected but Australia were going to be a difficult one and they crawled back the draw on that one. They expected to beat Fiji fairly impressively which they did. I think the game on Saturday will decide will it be successful enough the Six Nations campaign but to beat South Africa absolutely but if they don't win it will be mixed feelings. I feel we are in a good position to beat them on Saturday.

Do you think Ireland should have won against Australia?
No I think if you look at it they were lucky to get a draw in the end. They played a lot better in the second half and Australia squandered a lot of chances where by in other years they may have put that game away. So I think when looking at it I think Ireland would have been pleased to get away with a draw on that occasion. I think from Kidney's point of view I think Cian Healy was outstanding and Jonathan Sexton was outstanding and so was Craig Walsh and in that sense letting the new players play a good success.

After the match on Saturday you and the RTE panel were saying that Jonathan Sexton should play against South Africa but you didn't think he'd be picked. Why do you think he has been?
I was saying before the Australia game that I thought Jonathan Sexton should have been played in that game. There was a big hoo ha from George that it would never happen and I just felt that that was a right decision. I admire Declan Kidney for making what was probably for him a hard call but it was a right call for a number of reasons. I think that Jonathan Sexton is the future he is only 23 compared to Ronan O'Gara who is 33. He has got to get some game time before the world cup and I think this is the time to do it and I think the grand slam is at stack. Give them a go now and see that he has the goods.

How do you think Sexton and Cian Healy will do against the world champions?
I think very well. Cian Healy will have more of a difficult proposition as he could be going up against his Leinster team mate CJ Vander---- who would be a much better scrumager and he would know Cian Healy deficiencies. Jonathan Sexton has all the attributes not only to be a good scrum half in the future but to be a great one. He is very confident and he doesn't seem to suffer nerves last year when he kicked over the drop kick in the Heineken Final. He started the game last week in a confidence and an arrogance I suppose you need in an out half. So I suppose both of those players will come through Saturday fine.

How do you rate South Africa?
Obviously World Champions but I think they struggled on this tour and I think they are an ageing team. In South Africa I think there are different propositions but I think away from home and with a few players missing they rely just like New Zealand and a few key players and if they are missing them then I think they are there for the taking. In saying that though there has been a bit of bad blood from the two sides over the years they have had a few arguments off the pitch as well. I think it's a game South Africa would like to win as well and I think it will be tough but I think Ireland can do it.

Any predictions for the score on Saturday?
I would say Ireland will win it by more than 7 points if South Africa begin to flaunder a bit they have had a long season and they have had a good few injuries and they are a bit disjointed so I think Ireland will win it by 7 to 10 points if any luck. I am fairly good at predictions so we will see what happens on Saturday.

After last years victorious six nations campaign, how do you think things are looking for in this years campaign?
Very good. Will they win it - extremely difficult to say as you always have banana skin along the line - that's the way it works. Look at Australia last week lost out to Scotland and you would have put all your money on Australia. This year the two hardest teams probably away again would have been England and France but the French game will decide if they have a chance - they might get the Triple Grown but I doubt the Grand Slam. It will be a really tough match.

World player of the year is coming up soon. Two Irish hopes, Jamie Heaslip and Brian O Driscoll. Do you think one of them could win it?
There's only one player who will get it. I think they have made some serious errors in the nominations I think they got the South African one wrong they got the wrong stein or stain in there and that takes it out of it. I don't think New Zealand rugby is young enough. I think Brian O'Driscoll is the stand out player which is great and that would be two Irish players (Keith Wood) since rugby has gone professional.

My favourite player - when you get to my position as a pundit you don't have a favourite player. I am a great admirer of O'Driscoll and O'Connoll. You don't have a favourite player you'd have attributes you'd admire. O'Driscoll and O'Connoll have brought a new professionalism to the sport that wasn't there when I arrived in Ireland over 20 years ago.

Irelands defeat against France in last weeks football match has seen a debate begin again about the use of video referees in football. Do you think it could benefit football the way it has rugby?
It is a good question and talking to a few footballers myself - the problem with football is that there are so many infringements - if they have something around the goal area then maybe. Football isn't really a game for me. Each week you see players dive and they get penalties. I think it will all quiet down and people will have to think what would have happened if it happened to Robbie Keane at the other end and would there have been the same uproar but I don't know. When I watch football and I see 5 or 6 times when guys appeal for a penalty and then a few days later they say that was great as it wasn't really a penalty. Is there any difference? I think it's the nature of the game. Maybe for the big matches like the World Cup they could have something like CCTV. Unfortunately sport is a business now and it's not a sport at all anymore it's win at all costs and it's all about what it's worth to economies and what its worth to players. I think sport has lost its way a bit since it has become professional.