Cathal Noonan/INPHO

O'Connell keen to move past Cardiff disappointment before Scotland showdown

The Ireland captain says ‘it’s up to individuals to lift themselves’ after defeat in Wales.

Murray Kinsella reports from Cardiff

IT WASN’T THE 100th cap to remember.

The plaudits for Paul O’Connell in the build-up to yesterday’s defeat to Wales were fully deserved, but you got the impression that the second row wasn’t getting distracted by the milestone.

Now the 35-year-old looks ahead to cap number 101 and with it the chance to ensure Ireland retain their Six Nations crown.

The disappointment was still clinging to O’Connell and his teammates as they passed through Cardiff Airport this afternoon, though they have already looked to move the attention onto next week.

“Guys are very disappointed but it’s not up to Joe [Schmidt] or me or anyone to lift anyone else, it’s up to individuals to lift themselves,” says O’Connell.

“We’ve another chance to play for Ireland next week, a chance at a championship. We’ll look at this game and prepare for Scotland. I don’t think it’s going to be any different or that there will be any talk of lifting ourselves.

“One thing about losing is that you just want to get out there and play again as soon as you can.”

O’Connell was busy around the pitch at the Millennium Stadium, running 28 metres in his 19 carries, two of which saw him break the Welsh line. The area that will take the majority of his focus in reviewing the game, however, is the lineout.

General view of a line-out Crispin Rodwell / INPHO Crispin Rodwell / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland lost four of their own throws, including one disastrous miss five metres out from the Welsh tryline just after the quarter mark, as well as another costly failure near their own line before Scott Williams scored his second-half try.

“We lost a few balls and that was disappointing,” says O’Connell.

They defended really well and got Luke Charteris up at the front, and nicked a few off us. They did to us what we did to England two weeks ago. It’s just a really disappointing place to lose the ball.

“To lose the ball then to give away a penalty to allow them to clear their lines was disappointing, and a big momentum changer.”

Despite those failings at the set-piece, Ireland still had the opportunities to win yesterday’s game, certainly when one looks at the possession and field position Schmidt’s side enjoyed.

Wales’ work rate and technical excellence during that remarkable 32-phase passage of defence inside their 22 from 50 minutes onwards will live long in the memory, especially as it was followed immediately by another lengthy defensive set.

“It probably was,” says O’Connell when asked if it was one of the best defensive efforts he’s come across. “They are an excellent defensive side.

“They probably learned a lot from that first game against England and they have really improved. When you get into their 22 and you have a crack and they defend like they did, it’s a big lift for them.”

Luke Charteris and Paul O'Connell Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

It certainly wasn’t the dream 100th cap for O’Connell, but then the legendary lock was never going to make any fuss over that landmark. Win, lose or draw, the Munster man would have remained focused on the collective and what needs to happen next.

He loses out on the memory of beating Wales to mark the century, but as his teammate Eoin Reddan points out, O’Connell won’t have spared a thought for such things.

“I think the kind of person he is, it won’t be like that,” says Reddan. “He’ll move on and he’ll focus on the next job, which is Scotland. He’ll work on a few things, but he won’t dwell on this.

“He hasn’t got to where he is by dwelling on problems and there’ll be no fear of that.”

Originally published at 16.33

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