January 15, 2023 | News | No Comments
THE NEED TO cut out mistakes is so ingrained into top-level rugby that it sounds strange when an Ireland captain gives his side some margin for error.
Paul O’Connell said Ireland don’t need to be perfect against South Africa because the second row doesn’t think it’s possible to play a perfect game.
Rather, he thinks how Ireland respond to mistakes throughout the game – both their own and from the Springboks – will be a deciding factor on Saturday evening.
“I don’t think you’ll ever be perfect in a game but you always strive to be perfect,” O’Connell said.
“Balls will go down on the ground, you’ve got to win those. We’ve been in so many games where that has won or lost you games, particularly against a team like South Africa who are so dangerous off loose ball.
“You don’t have to perfect. Your attitude and mental resolve has to be perfect but it’s very hard to play a perfect game of rugby. We’ve discussed that, we have to react. There will be mistakes from them and from us, but reacting to that is a good part of how you perform on the day.”
There will be an even greater emphasis on O’Connell and some of the more experienced members of the Ireland pack on Saturday with the injuries to Sean O’Brien and Cian Healy but O’Connell stressed that the squad hasn’t dwelled on their long injury list.
“With Joe’s style of doing things when you’re injured you’re out,” O’Connell said.
“ It’s not an issue, you move on to the next player. We are lucky in Ireland with strength in depth and injuries have probably contributed to that.
Joe Schmidt brought Leinster centre Garry Ringrose in to train with the squad this week and Paul O’Connell was as enthusiastic about the youngster’s potential as Les Kiss and Tommy Bowe were during the week. Although, when asked if he was reminded of watching Brian O’Driscoll for the first time, O’Connell took a step back.
“I think I watched Brian O’Driscoll on tv for the first time because I’m a bit younger,” O’Connell smiled.
“Garry has been involved in the academy a lot so he might even be a bit further along in development than Brian was at that age. But you don’t want to put too much expectation on a guy after only seeing him for one or two training sessions.”
O’Connell has been involved in some epic clashes with South Africa throughout his career. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
There has been a bit of a bromance between two all-time great second rows, Victor Matfield and Paul O’Connell, this week with the Springbok legend heaping praise on the Ireland captain by calling him the best second row he has ever faced.
O’Connell was quick to return the favour but also pointed out that the love-in will have little relevance on the outcome tomorrow.
“Victor Matfield is the best lineout forward in the world and he has been for some time,” O’Connell said.
“To take two years out and come back and be just as good as he ever was is some achievement. South Africa were missing a bit of that [lineout presence] in the last couple of years but he has brought it back with abundance.
“I was delighted to get the compliment but it is all irrelevant come Saturday.”
O’Connell is also impressed with how South Africa have developed under Heyneke Meyer over the last few years.
“The team is different in a better way,” O’Connell said.
“You look at how they have been playing recently with the ball in hand with Handré Pollard and Willie le Roux and I think they have an extra string to their bow than when they won the World Cup. Or that they didn’t maybe use when they won the World Cup or beat us on the Lions Tour in 2009.”
In the past, O’Connell has robbed a few Afrikaan phrases to try get a slight edge on Matfield, Bakkies Botha and co. but he is going in without his phrase book this weekend.
“No, I’ve no Gert Smal to help me this year,” O’Connell laughed.
“And Simon [Easterby] doesn’t speak Afrikaan.”
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