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O'Connell demands complete '85-minute' performance

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Paul O'Connell is in search of continuous improvement with the national team and believes his side must stop switching off in the final moments of the game. Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Paul O'Connell is in search of continuous improvement with the national team and believes his side must stop switching off in the final moments of the game. Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Paul O'Connell is in search of continuous improvement with the national team and believes his side must stop switching off in the final moments of the game. Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell has challenged his players to play until the final whistle against Australia this afternoon.

Conceding a last-gasp try against South Africa put a dampener on the side's celebrations a fortnight ago and reminded the squad of their dramatic end-games against France and New Zealand last season.

The Munster hero is in search of continuous improvement with the national team and believes his side must stop switching off in the final moments of games.

And, given the Wallabies have endured dramatic heartbreak in their recent games against New Zealand and France, there is a strong chance that composure in the final minutes could be crucial at the Aviva Stadium.

"It's something that we have spoken about ourselves," he said. "It's probably something we haven't covered ourselves in glory in recent months, when you look back at New Zealand, you look back at the France game, you look back at South Africa two weeks ago where we conceded a try.

"You have to be an 85-minute team, there is no doubt about it. While we haven't spoken directly about Australia being it, we have spoken about ourselves being able to shut teams out right until the last minute and that is something we need to address and it's something we need to do."

O'Connell dismissed French media reports linking him with a post-World Cup move to Pau, denying there had been any contact between himself and the ProD2 leaders.

His focus remains fully on beating a Wallaby side who proved too strong during Joe Schmidt's second game in charge last season.

And he wants to learn the lessons of that disappointing day when Ireland left their intensity behind.

"I think we've pretty much improved since then," he said. "There's been disappointments along the way - the England game in the Six Nations and some aspects of Argentina.

"I think a lot of guys realised that early on in the week, you've got to lock away that detail and that knowledge, and you've got to get ready to play a rugby match."

Irish Independent