Thursday 14 December 2017

Paul O'Connell: England have no weak points

O'Connell is expecting a rough ride at Twickenham

Ireland captain Paul O’Connell arrives for the captain’s run at Twickenham
Ireland captain Paul O’Connell arrives for the captain’s run at Twickenham

The World Cup will have to wait.

Ireland captain, Paul O'Connell, will use the fear of failure to England to generate a pitch-perfect state of mind at a packed-out Twickenham this afternoon.

"They've been the standard bearers, the only Northern Hemisphere team to win a World Cup, and the way they've been building has been very impressive," he said.

He doesn't have to look too far back over his shoulder to see proper evidence of why Ireland will be torn apart if they don't come together.

"They probably had two of the most impressive performances of the Six Nations, winning in Wales and then the last day against France. I suppose you go into these games with a heightened sense of fear almost - and respect.

"And, hopefully, it makes you play well," he added.

The second row veteran took the air out of whispers circulating in the wind that back-to-back defeats would leave Ireland searching for lost confidence.

"You'd love to go into the World Cup having won," he said.

"But, if you don't win, you just deal with it and get on with it.

"From our point of view, it's about putting together certain things that help us play well.


"We recognise those when we lose and we recognise those when we haven't done them when we win as well."

This is a professional environment in which individuals have to constantly reassess what they have done and how to do it better.

The momentum generated by the wins over Wales and Scotland has been deadened by what happened against an upholstered and upgraded Wales last Saturday.

The idea of winning a World Cup must have seemed like an impossible dream.

"It's a long, long way away now," he said.

"I'll tell you, the Monday morning after the Wales game, when we reviewed it, it felt a long, long way away as well. For me, I don't think there's any value in me or us getting distracted by that. I think the week after you lose you wonder almost why you're playing anymore."

The most worrying aspect is that Ireland already had the giddy-up from their coaches after a win against Scotland which had more holes than a Cavan road.

"After the Scotland game I thought we were going to put a whole lot of things right. Unfortunately, we didn't - and you just find out a lot about how far you have to go.

"So we need to get those things right this weekend and start building now - so, winning the World Cup? It would be great. But, it's very much not at the forefront of my mind."

Just as no one will be fooled into believing Ireland are a spent force because of what happened against Wales, it would be dangerous to take too much out of England's physical pummelling in Paris.

"I don't think there are weaknesses," he declared.

"I think every team has days like that, no matter how good you are.

"It's rare, if ever, you've seen that happen to an English team in the last few years under (Stuart) Lancaster.

"We've no doubt how pumped up they will be for the physical aspect of the game, given what happened in Paris."

There is a bully-boy mentality about England in how they boss a game.

If they win the collisions and get their big forwards, like Ben Morgan, over the gain line, it is going to be a long afternoon for Ireland.


If Ireland can slow them down, take some of the heat out of their go-forward, they could well be in business.

"We probably slipped off some of our standards in the contact area last weekend," piped forwards coach, Simon Easterby.

"Some of that was our discipline. The contact will be key in making sure we stay on the right side of the law.

"That's important."

England: M Brown; A Watson, J Joseph, B Barritt, J May; G Ford, B Youngs; J Marler, T Youngs, D Cole, C Lawes, G Parling, T Wood, C Robshaw (capt), B Morgan.

Ireland: S Zebo; T Bowe, J Payne, R Henshaw, D Kearney; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, M Ross, D Toner, P O'Connell (capt), P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Verdict: England.

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