O’Connell: ‘Ireland in a good place’

Date published: September 6 2015

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell is ready for the Rugby World Cup despite Saturday's disappointing setback at Twickenham.

A slow start cost the Six Nations champions with Ireland battling back from 15-3 down to 15-13 at the start of the second half, before England pulled away.

The loss followed defeat to Wales the previous week but Ireland, and O'Connell in particular, are far from panicking.

"It’s a bit disappointing today, to start the way we did particularly after losing last week is really disappointing," O'Connell told reporters. 

"In the past we’ve been good at correcting what’s gone wrong in the previous games and we did do that today, but other things fell off.

"I feel we’re in a good place but we just need to bring it all together now.

"There were bits and pieces today of good stuff, but you can't let a team dominate you for 20 minutes and then try to get into the game.

"We put their lineout under pressure, but from their close lineout they scored and on our turn we turned the ball over, which summed it up really."

Ireland's defence let them down, missing 26 tackles compared to 12 by England despite the home side putting in more stops overall.

O'Connell referenced the need for a tight defence in order to win the Rugby World Cup while discussing the positives that Ireland will take away from Twickenham – where they will hope to return in October in the knockout stages.

"Some of our tackling was a bit poor again. Any successful World Cup side has had a very good defence and built a foundation for victory off that, and that’s been disappointing for us in the last two or three weeks.

"We’ve been good at addressing that in the past without flogging each other so hopefully we can do that.

"There are positives – a low penalty count, our scrum was good, the lineout apart from that one miss.

"To be that far down, and it could have been more than that had it not been for a forward pass, to come back and put ourselves in position was good – but it was just a shame that we didn’t kick on and finish the game in the ascendancy."

Having lost to Pool A rivals Wales and England within a week O'Connell knows better than most the differences between the approaches of both sides, which he was willing to discuss. Ireland could face either side again later in the competition.

"Wales have that game-plan that we’ve seen from Wasps and the Lions that we see them stick to rigidly, and when they come out of that plan they catch you unawares. It's very structured.

"England have a bit more variety and we defended them like they were Wales, hitting up around the corner and then they hurt us when they came back on the short side. We were overworking a little bit.

"In many regards they’re similar, their wingers can do damage and May and Watson’s footwork and speed was incredible today, similar to George North and Alex Cuthbert. They're both big strong sides, but different in how they play the game."

O'Connell's faith in his group of players isn't exactly without cause given they have won the last two Six Nations championships.

The clear message from coach and captain was that any concern about Ireland's consecutive losses is external rather than coming from within the camp.

What's more, Ireland don't necessarily have to start the Rugby World Cup running hot given their run of fixtures, unlike England or Wales.

But they will have to be near perfect when their key fixture against France comes around on October 11.

by Ben Coles