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O'Connell insists Ireland's set-piece issues are fixable ahead of second test

Ireland came under pressure in the scrum in yesterday’s 42-19 defeat.

Ireland's front row: Porter, Sheehan, Furlong.
Ireland's front row: Porter, Sheehan, Furlong.

PAUL O’CONNELL, ANDY Farrell’s assistant, admitted today that the Irish set-piece needs to improve ahead of this Saturday’s second test of their tour of New Zealand.

Ireland were comprehensively beaten 42-19 last night in Auckland, as their scrum and lineout came under pressure.

Speaking about this problem, former Ireland captain O’Connell said: “It was poor last night, there is no doubt about it. From a scrum point of view, some of the interpretation is frustrating but that is something we need to figure out.

“Lineout wise, we had 17 lineouts but lost four of them. Another one we lost, we won, but subsequently lost the ball on the ground, so effectively we lost five lineouts.

“We just got our drill wrong a little bit. Two of them they got their defence right which you expect against New Zealand, they have a very good mirror lineout and historically they have been very good against us. It is an important part of our game and these are things we will have to address.”

While the spirit in the Irish camp remains upbeat – their positivity stemming from their awareness that the mistakes they made are easily fixable – there is some frustration from the manner of their loss.

“One of the ways that we score is by being very tidy in how we go about our own business and at times we were not that (tidy) last night,” said O’Connell. “Even though we finished with the penalty count at 14-10 (in Ireland’s favour); up until the 70th minute it was 10-7 to New Zealand.

“So what we are looking at is how we can be more efficient, like one or two of those penalties are just penalties that we didn’t need to give away.

“In rugby some penalties are inevitable; there is nothing you can do about it, it is the nature of the game. But there are some you can avoid and we did not manage to do that. And when they get into your half, or your 22, they are just very effective because they have great speed and power and are very good at unstructured play. We have to stop giving them those opportunities.”

In terms of team news, we will not know until tomorrow if Johnny Sexton is available to play the second test in Dunedin.

 “Johnny passed his HIA 2 and he will do his HIA 3 in the next 24 hours,” said O’Connell. “Dave Heffernan did not do a HIA so he has had a concussion confirmed so he is going to be out certainly out until the third test.”

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johnny-sexton-looks-on-from-the-bench-late-in-the-game Sexton watches on from the bench. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

While a number of Irish fans were frustrated by referee Karl Dickson yesterday, no one inside the camp has been critical of the officials.

“I thought it was a bit messy at the breakdown and they (New Zealand) certainly wanted to make a mess of it,” said Josh van der Flier when asked if he felt the All Blacks were treated generously in this area. “They pushed the limits of the breakdown and made it quite scrappy for us – they were pretty good at that so I wouldn’t be blaming the ref or anything.”

Van der Flier had a try disallowed in the second half. Was this a harsh call?

“It was kind of hard to see,” he replied. “There was a huge pile of bodies; I thought we might have got over but the ball kind of got bobbled around so it was kind of hard to know what happened there.”

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Garry Doyle  / reports from Auckland

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