Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
# Frustration
'You get a double barrel shotgun, stick it on your foot and blow it off'
Conor O’Shea was deeply frustrated by how his Italy team started the second half against Ireland.

Murray Kinsella reports from Chicago

IT MIGHT BE easy to forget due to Jordan Larmour completing his hat-trick and Ireland ending up with eight tries, but Italy were competitive for 40 minutes in Chicago.

Same old story, sure, but Conor O’Shea was deeply disappointed with how his team came out from the half-time break and spoiled the good work they had done in the first half to trail just 14-7. 

The opening 40 minutes saw the Italians score their only try of the game through Michele Campagnaro’s intercept of Rhys Ruddock’s pass, after they had applied real pressure to Joe Schmidt’s relatively inexperienced team.

Conor O'Shea Dan Sheridan / INPHO Conor O'Shea's side conceded eight tries to Ireland. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland halfbacks Luke McGrath and Joey Carbery were unable to exert great influence on the half as the Italians kept possession for lengthy spells and made life difficult when Schmidt’s team attempted to exit from their defensive territory.

But the game was as good as over within six minutes of the second half getting underway, Tadhg Beirne and Jordan Larmour grabbing their second tries to shift Ireland 28-7 in front. 

“The first five minutes of the second half,” said O’Shea without hesitation when asked what the key difference between the teams had been after his side’s 54-7 defeat.

“We’re playing against an outstanding rugby team. They’re second in the world for a reason. They’ve got depth in all their provinces for a reason.

“I know we got an intercept try through ‘Campo’ at the end of the first-half but when you looked at the balance of the first-half, we started really poorly and were 14-0 down but we dug our way back. We played some positive direct rugby.

“We were making yards, we were making breaks and we should have scored a couple of times. At 14-7 at half-time there’s an opportunity if you execute properly to change the mentality of everybody; change the mentality of you and change the mentality of the opposition.

“Against a side that has got huge game breakers, we gave them a present of 14 points to go 28-7 down. We have to learn and we have to become better. The younger guys will learn a lot from that.”

O’Shea’s sheer frustration was evident post-match as he continually came back to those crucial minutes after half-time. 

Ian McKinley Dan Sheridan / INPHO Ian McKinley and his team-mates were well beaten by the end. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“In the first-half, despite our bad start, we work unbelievably hard to come back into a game and you literally just go out and get a double barrel shotgun, stick it on your foot and blow it off, because that’s what we did and the game is done. 

“If we had actually controlled what we can control at the start of the second half, there’s a different mentality. I’m not saying winning the game, I’m saying a different mentality and how competitive that becomes because you drain everything out of yourself and you give to the opposition.

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 “At half-time, the dreamer in me thought we had the chance to put them under pressure, and we just relieved the pressure valve straight away.” 

Italy must rebound quickly, with a huge Test against Georgia to come next weekend in Florence.

Given the persistent claims that the Georgians should be given a shot in the Six Nations instead of Italy, O’Shea and his players are awake to the fact that this fixture brings pressure to win.

The return of many of Italy’s frontline players means O’Shea will be fielding a very different team to the one that lost in Chicago, meaning he is confident they can improve quickly.

“I’ve been there before, you can look pretty disjointed at the end of the game but you have to pick through it, see some of the stuff we did well and understand it’s what we controlled.

“And as long as young players learn that, we’ll keep on working and get there.” 

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