O'Connell hopes new approach bears fruit
PAUL O'CONNELL is upbeat that Ireland's World Cup nightmare of four years ago will not repeat itself in New Zealand this time around.
The Ireland captain for tomorrow's game against England puts the improvement down to the different approach and preparation undertaken by the players and coaching staff for this year's tournament.
"I think we're in a different place," said the 31-year-old. "We didn't always do pre-season with the national coaches in the past because we were with our provinces and, for World Cups, it was run by guys who didn't do it year in, year out."
O'Connell also revealed the squad are taking smaller steps in the hope of making a giant leap in New Zealand.
"One thing I remember from four years ago was making big gains in the gym in my pre-season and I think when you make big gains like that you sometimes pay the price for it. I think the healthiest gains are modest gains and that's what we've gone for.
"We've done some great fitness work but its all been game-based around 80 minutes. It has suited the guys who've come back. No matter how fit you are, you still feel bad in that first game but I think we have been better than we were and hopefully it pays off."
Since the last World Cup, the Munster lock has had plenty of injury problems but now feels that he will be sharper against the United States in Ireland's opening game on September 11 than he was in the curtain-raiser against Georgia in 2007.
"That was my first start last week and a few of the lads felt that they were struggling in the second 20 minutes of the first half, but they felt that they were pretty much okay for the rest of the game."
He is fully prepared for the physical battle that England will bring to Dublin this weekend, however. "One thing you're guaranteed against England is physicality every time. And then with Martin Johnson at the helm that probably goes up another notch," he said.