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Thursday 17 October 2019

Cullen: Ireland have to use the doubt to drive them on

Leo Cullen at Leinster squad training
Leo Cullen at Leinster squad training

The reason Ireland were correctly cautious against Japan is the same reason they can exorcise some of their demons against Russia.

The move from a six-day turnaround to a five-day spin from Saturday to Thursday can be looked on positively - because it has to be.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt repeatedly placed a heavy emphasis on the short break between Scotland and Japan to guard against complacency inside and outside the bubble.

Undoubtedly, the heat and the humidity were factors.

How much? That probably won't be clear until the tournament shakes out.

Ireland have already faded to grey against the hosts.

Wales blasted out of the blocks before the Australians almost caught them from a long way back.

The stress on endurance won't be nearly as taxing against the lowly-ranked Russians.

The amateurs of the game just don't have the skill set to stretch Ireland in a way that will matter.

"It's perfect in many ways, well as perfect as you can get, having a game so quick to get back out there again," said Leo Cullen, at the announcement of an extension of the partnership with Beauchamps, their official legal advisors.

"In many ways, given what happened at the weekend, it's the perfect way to turn things around - to get right back out and play.

"Win that game, win the Samoa game, that's what Ireland will be focused on - getting the ten points.

"They could still potentially top the group. Then, you put that game in the background and just focus on the next game, which is a quarter-final."

The fact Scotland were able to secure the five points from four tries against Samoa keeps the Pool A bubbling with possibility for three nations.

There is even a valid argument to be made that the Scots are better equipped to deal with the Japanese.

Ireland have had their problems with the fallout from big defeats this year, England in Dublin, Wales in Cardiff.

It is the recent experience of not being able to review, process, park and move on that has lingered on in Ireland's performances.

"It's only damaging if you allow it to be," said Leinster coach Cullen.

"Doubts are there all the time - that's a good thing as well. That's the whole thing about performance, in terms of the mental preparation you have.

"The little bit of doubt and the confidence and where that point meets to get the perfect performance."

The good and great among us are often driven by the fear of being found out, exposed as something less than what they would have us all believe.

"It just means you are going to do everything within your powers to prepare as well as you possibly can, to leave no stone unturned."

Ireland have reached the point where one more setback will break them for another four years.

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