Friday 30 September 2016

O'Connell ready to rock as he calls for improved defence

Published 07/09/2015 | 02:30

England’s Tom Youngs is tackled by Paul O’Connell at Twickenham on Saturday
England’s Tom Youngs is tackled by Paul O’Connell at Twickenham on Saturday

They are in a strange sort of limbo now, waiting for the real thing to kick off. Twickenham is never a nice place to lose, but having avoided the hammering that looked on the cards early on, Ireland were able to make it home to turn their focus to the World Cup in peace.

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The players regrouped in Carton House last night and stay in camp until Wednesday, when Joe Schmidt releases them for their final break before it all begins in earnest.

The hope is that the deficiencies shown in all four warm-up matches were just kinks being ironed out and that they can pick up their form through the two opening pool matches.

Successive defeats against Wales and England will sting, yet there is re-assurance in the fact that those teams are on a harsher curve and need to hit the ground at full pelt next week, whereas Ireland's biggest game is still a month away.

So, the players are on an even keel. No panic, just a bit of healthy annoyance at another sloppy display.

Peter O'Mahony spoke of the bank of good work the squad can draw on when things go against them, while Paul O'Connell reckoned that the four warm-up games will stand the Six Nations champions in good stead and Dave Kearney reflected on the positives of hanging with England when it looked like they might cut loose.

Sentiments

Nobody was trying to sell a pup or conceal the flaws of a disappointing day out, yet the reality of it being a dress-rehearsal underpinned their sentiments.

"I wouldn't get carried away with one game," O'Mahony said. "We've had a big 18 months and it's something we will take a lot of confidence from. There were positives. When we did have the ball we felt we looked dangerous.

"We lacked a bit of accuracy, dropped a few balls in good positions, which is uncharacteristic. But we are certainly building nicely.

"We have a huge amount to work on but we have two weeks now to get it right, rest the bodies, get back to the drawing board. And train well before we kick it off.

"We have got to mind the ball. Against good teams like this you want to hold onto the ball - if you do you are going to be effective. When we got to six, seven, eight phases we broke down, which is uncharacteristic. It's something we want to cut out, and the defensive errors too."

With 13 days to go before they take on Canada at the Millennium Stadium, there is time for Ireland to correct their issues.

After four warm-ups and three months of training, O'Connell reckons that they're good to go.

"I do feel ready. Today's a bit disappointing. To start the way we started particularly after losing last week is really disappointing," he said. "In the past when we've lost games we've been good at addressing it and correcting it. We did a little bit of that today, but other things then fell off.

"I do feel the guys are in a good place. We just need to bring it all together now. There were bits and pieces of good stuff. You can't let a team dominate you for 20 minutes and then expect to get into game.

"There were some really good things in game, but ultimately some disappointing things we need to correct again.

"The penalty count was quite low. It was disappointing in last 10 minutes to give them those last two kicks which gave them the breathing space.

"Defensively, some of tackling was a bit poor. Any team that has gone to a World Cup and been successful has had a very good defence and built the foundation of victory on defence. That's been disappointing.

"I don't think a whole lot needs to be done on the training field to address it. We've been quite good at addressing it in the past without flogging each other.

"I think our set-piece was good. One thing we've been very good at is that when we get in the opposition 22, we make those set-pieces count.

"So to lose that lineout in the first half was very disappointing.

"I thought our scrum was really good. All the things that every other team wants to be good at from a discipline point of view. . . I think we gave away six or seven penalties.

"That's down nine from where it was previous week. To go 15-3 down and be under serious pressure and come back and put ourselves in a good position going into last 20 minutes of the game at 15-13 was good.

"It's just a shame we didn't kick on and finish the game in ascendancy."

Concern

Under Schmidt, Ireland have rarely had to come from behind in big games and their slow starts against Wales and England will be a concern.

"England were really good in the first 25 minutes. We were really poor," Kearney accepted.

"We let them attack us. We let them get out wide a couple of times, but that there were enough positives in the second half to win the game was a big thing.

"At half-time we wanted to come out and play well in the second half and we did that."

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