thanks paulie

'You regret a mistake in training almost much as in a match': Ireland's short-term focus for continued progress

Continued progress means continued success for Paul O’Connell as he waves farewell to Ireland.

FROM HERE ON in, the Rugby World Cup gets real.

Jonathan Sexton during kicking practice Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

After two opening Rugby World Cup warm-up fixtures of low to medium intensity, today’s meeting with a full strength Wales (kick-off 2.30pm) and next weekend’s trip to Twickenham promise to be full on.

Head coach Joe Schmidt has so far been able to avoid making cuts to his squad for September. That will change soon too.

In truth, it has been an impressive use of resources from Schmidt. Rather than risk alienating any player by cutting them loose early, the Kiwi has kept a large group very close to him. Those who appeared to be early casualties were brought back from brief provincial spells, back under the wing of Team Ireland.

Joe Schmidt Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

This weekend, the time when many would counsel cotton wool for any player not in the last chance saloon, Schmidt has named a blend of certain starters and fringe hopefuls to face Wales. Meanwhile, he has sent two Lions back to their provinces along with a versatile prop and the 2014 Six Nations Player of the Year.

The message from Schmidt is clear: the window of opportunity is still wide open until he sits down to make the hard calls on Saturday night.

“Probably not,” says Paul O’Connell when we asked if he had played in a more competitive squad.

“It’s a great thing to have. We’re all about preparation and how we train and training at a certain level and a certain intensity.

“The competition in the squad adds to that. You regret a mistake in training almost much as a mistake in a match. That’s a great place to be when you’re trying to prepare really well for games.”

Paul O'Connell Today's game will be Paul O'Connell's last international on home soil. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The heady combination of that internal competition, Schmidt’s attention to detail and a cycle-defining tournament coming across the horizon must surely bring a burdensome pressure. Perhaps not for O’Connell, but for some of the less experienced, less decorated players around him.

“The way we deal with pressure is we prepare as well as we can, which allows us to play a certain way. Then you deal with the consequences of that performance,” explains O’Connell.

There’s no value in anyone getting too bogged down and worrying about it. We’re big on preparation, you prepare as well as you can, that helps you play as well as you can and that helps (a player’s case in) selection.

It’s a short-term approach that Schmidt has always pushed upon his players. Worry about today’s job, tomorrow will look after itself.

“It’s very hard to recognise if somebody’s buckling under pressure. I think sometimes you can get your preparation a little bit wrong and maybe that’s easy to recognise and you can help someone from that point of view.

“Particularly from a line-out or set play point of view it’s easy to recognise if someone is missing something, to help him out and vice-versa. So that’s something everyone does across the board.

Joe Schmidt Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“The way we do little things in scrum and line-out change from week to week and it’s important we help and communicate with eachother.”

The focus on the here and now is even more apparent when Irish players are posed the inevitableCan Ireland win the World Cup?question. We are past the period when Ireland players feel they have to publicly declare that they are reaching for the stars lest anyone think they’re settling for second best. Schmidt’s squad have back-to-back Championship medals and an ingrained culture of improving on every facet of the game from one week to the next.

“We haven’t thought about that question or spoken about that to anyone,” captain O’Connell assured the baying press after his final Captain’s Run on Lansdowne Road.

We’ve just stayed very focused on the short-term and we think only good things can come from having a real short-term focus on our preparation and taking these matches really seriously.

“That’s probably not the answer you want, but that’s how we’re preparing and how we are living week-to-week. It works for us and we’ll stick to it.”

Wales it is then. And any remaining fears from supporters who stumped up to go and watch a warm-up fixture might fade when listening to O’Connell’s mindset.

“We’re not holding anything back anyway.

“Everyone’s trying to take their opportunities and everyone else is trying to put everyone else in a position to that their opportunities.

“There’s no holding back. I say it all the time, we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves. I’m sure management have a long-term plan, but as players we don’t. We have a heavy emphasis on what’s right in front of us and we work really hard at that.”

Every training session, every minute of every game. Thanks Paulie.


15. Rob Kearney
14. Dave Kearney
13. Luke Fitzgerald
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Keith Earls
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

Nathan White and Richardt Strauss Connacht's Nathan White wins his second cap today. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

1. Jack McGrath
2. Richardt Strauss
3. Nathan White
4. Iain Henderson
5. Paul O’Connell (capt)
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Jordi Murphy
8. Jamie Heaslip


16. Sean Cronin
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. Tahdg Furlong
19. Donnacha Ryan
20. Sean O’Brien
21. Eoin Reddan
22. Paddy Jackson
23. Felix Jones

Leigh Halfpenny Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO


15. Leigh Halfpenny
14. Alex Cuthbert
13. Scott Williams
12. Jamie Roberts
11. George North
10. Dan Biggar
9. Rhys Webb

1. Gethin Jenkins
2. Ken Owens
3. Tommy Francis
4. Bradley Davies
5. Alun Wyn Jones (capt)
6. Dan Lydiate
7. Justin Tipuric
8. Talupe Faletau


16. Scott Baldwin
17. Paul James
18. Aaron Jarvis
19. Luke Charteris
20. James King
21. Gareth Davies
22. Rhys Priestland
23. Hallam Amos

Referee: Craig Joubert

‘It’s about staying in the moment’ – Ireland’s Sexton on place-kicking success

Kearney’s impressive pre-season pushes him to strong World Cup contention

Cian Healy could make his Ireland comeback as soon as next week

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.