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Paul O'Connell: 'We're in a good place, we just need to bring it together'

The Ireland skipper was determined to take the positives from a second defeat on the trot.

Paul O'Connell on the front foot at Twickenham yesterday.
Paul O'Connell on the front foot at Twickenham yesterday.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Updated at 09.36

PAUL O’CONNELL FEELS Ireland “are in a good place” heading into the World Cup despite their humbling 21-13 defeat by England at Twickenham.

Stuart Lancaster’s side established an early 12-3 lead thanks to well-executed tries from wingers Anthony Watson and Jonny May. It was a lead that the home side never relinquished despite Ireland’s third quarter revival.

“Today’s a bit disappointing,” said the Ireland captain. “To start the way we started, particularly after losing last week, is particularly disappointing.

“I think, in the past, when we’ve lost games we’ve been really good at addressing what went wrong and correcting it and I think we did a little bit of that today in some regards but other things then fell off.  But I do feel the guys are in a good place. We just need to bring it all together now. There was bits and pieces today of good stuff but you just can’t let a team dominate you for 20 minutes and then expect to get into the game.

“I think we put their lineout under pressure, but then when it came to it, they had a seven metre lineout, they drew a penalty from it and kicked cross-field and scored a try. When we had a seven metre lineout in the first half, we turned it over and that kind of summed it up a little bit really. I think there was some really good things in the game but ultimately some disappointing things that we’ll need to correct again.”

O’Connell had spoken earlier in the week about the need to fix system failures that had occurred against Scotland and Wales not to mention their poor discipline during the 16-10 defeat at the Aviva Stadium last weekend.

Ireland’s discipline certainly improved at Twickenham but they also conceded 12 turnovers during the first half as well as falling off a heap of first-up tackles.

“I’m not sure what the penalty count was, but I think it was quite low. I think it was disappointing in the last 10 minutes to give them those two kicks which gave them the breathing space. Defensively, some of our tackling was a bit poor again. Any team that’s gone to the World Cup and has been successful has had a very good defence and has built a foundation for victory on defence.

“That’s been disappointing for in the last two, maybe even three, weeks. I don’t think there’s a whole lot that needs to be does on the training field to address it, I think it’s something we’ve been quite good at addressing in the past without flogging each other so hopefully we can do that.”

Trailing 15-3 early in the second half, O’Connell spearheaded an Irish comeback with the Toulon-bound lock surging over from close-range following a superbly executed lineout move involving Devin Toner and Jamie Heaslip.

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It was a rare moment of accuracy from Joe Schmidt’s side during what was ultimately an error-strewn and edgy display, but O’Connell did see some positives emerge from the wreckage of their loss.

“I think our set piece was good,” O’Connell added. “One thing we’ve been very good at is when we get into the opposition 22 is making those set-pieces count so to lose that lineout in the first half was really disappointing. It was some good defensive play by England.

Paul O'Connell Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I thought our scrum was really good. All the things that every other team wants to be good at from a discipline point of view, I think we gave away six or seven penalties; that’s down nine from what it was the previous week. I think to go 15-3 down and to be under real serious pressure. It could have been, but for a forward pass, it could have been a little bit more than that. To be under that pressure and come back and put ourselves in a good position going into the last 20 minutes of the game at 15-13 was good.

“It’s just a shame that we didn’t kick on and finish the game in the ascendancy. When we were 15-13 down, it looked they were the team that were 15-13 down the way they finished and that was disappointing.” 

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