Ireland kept their captain’s run light at Murrayfield today in an attempt to keep things fresh ahead of the final Six Nations game against Scotland.
Joe Schmidt has no injury worries ahead of the final game in which Ireland can claim the title on points difference if things go their way.
Captain Paul O’Connell took the decision to lighten the load in order to keep things fresh at the end of a high-octane Championship and the players were in high spirits as they went through a game of walking-touch-rugby on the Murrayfield pitch.
The skipper says the mood in the camp has not been overly affected by last weekend’s defeat to Wales.
“We thought we’d do something different, the guys enjoyed it and they are relaxed,” he said.
“It hasn’t been a change in mood really, we addressed the Wales game and the shortcomings and then prepared for Scotland. An excellent side, we have to have our heads on to beat them.
“We were disappointed to lose, but we’ve all lost big games before and know what to do.”
O’Connell played down the issue of points difference on the eve of an afternoon where Wales can set the pace in Rome, while Ireland can them put pressure on England if they can win well in Scotland.
“It’s kind of like Champions Cup where it’s a dangerous place to go to start thinking about anything other than winning the game and executing your plan,” O’Connell said.
“That’s all we’ve spoken about and addressed. Our big focus is that start, starting well and with a disciplined fashioned, same as we would be if we were going for a one-point win.”
The Munster legend is wary of the Scots and their coach Vern Cotter who has worked extensively with Joe Schmidt in the past.
“I’ve played against Vern Cotter-coached eams for a long time and they’re well coached sides. They’re unlucky not to get some results, no one has pulled away from them,” he said.
“I’m surprised that they’re in the position they are, we’ve a lot of respect. Their spine is GW (Glasgow Warriors) who have been consistent and hard to beat, we’ve a lot of respect for them.”
And with Scotland trying to avoid a Wooden Spoon, he reckons from experience they’re a dangerous beast.
“I remember being in the Aviva Stadium in 2011 when Eng came over trying to win. We struggled for form, it was a massive spark for us, we’d nothing to lose. We started at 100mph and we didn’t stop,” he said.
“That’s why the preparation doesn’t change, we want to improve and we want to do that week on week.
“We’ve prepared to get better and how we want to win a rugby match against Scotland