Paul O’Connell admits Ireland players face steep learning curve

Lack of emotion compared to Australia a worry for captain

Paul O’Connell is  tackled by Ben Mowen and Rob Simmons of Australia during the game at the Aviva stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Paul O’Connell is tackled by Ben Mowen and Rob Simmons of Australia during the game at the Aviva stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Sun, Nov 17, 2013, 15:16

Captain Paul O’Connell admits Ireland have been far too slow to adapt to Joe Schmidt’s coaching methods.

The 34-year-old lock also believes that new head coach Schmidt’s emphasis on technical know-how has been tough to master.

Munster talisman O’Connell is famed for his mental ferocity, but conceded the Ireland side failed to deliver any emotional intensity in Saturday’s 32-15 Dublin defeat to Australia.

Schmidt’s highly-successful Leinster tenure centred around supreme accuracy, while Munster typically build their game on passion and fire.

O’Connell knows Ireland have yet to strike a healthy balance between the two approaches under Schmidt.

He said: “Joe talks about the inches in rugby matches, and I think Australia won a lot of them.

“They got a few scrum turnovers, and a few at the breakdown too.

“You could see how high their emotion was in comparison to ours when we got our turnovers, and that was disappointing from our point of view.

“I suppose for a few of us we’ve a little bit to learn under Joe, there’s a lot of technical stuff we need to get right.

“But you can’t lose track of that intensity and that aggression that’s required at Test rugby as well.

“A lot of the stuff is quickly rectifiable, defending mauls close to your line, you just can’t concede tries there, and that’s a really disappointing aspect for us.

“The two tries they scored in the first half, they went width to width and it was disappointing how tight we got there.

“It was something we discussed in the week that we needed to hold width if we were going to take line speed. So I think some things are easily rectifiable.”

O’Connell believes Australia are far more developed under new head coach Ewen McKenzie than Ireland are under Schmidt, but he will not accept that as an excuse for a lack of precision.

He continued: “The accuracy we talked about in the week, and since we’ve come into camp, it wasn’t there.

“We can put pressure on teams by just keeping the ball and staying in their half, and unfortunately we didn’t do that. And that’s an area we’ve worked on quite a bit.

“They probably learned a lot more about themselves in the last few months than we have.

“You read Leinster players talking about accuracy over the last few years, in every interview they do.

“The way we started the game wasn’t accurate, and that was disappointing from our point of view. We need to be accurate if we want to deliver what we intend.

“That was disappointing from our point of view to see a lot of what they were doing, at the scrum, the line-out and at the breakdown: they were very accurate and very hard at what they were doing.”

Schmidt will receive an update on the severity of Jonathan Sexton’s hamstring injury on Monday, but stated that the Racing Metro outhalf will need to train twice this week if he is to stand any chance of facing the All Blacks next Sunday.

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