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Dublin: 10°C Monday 19 April 2021

'I think it's really started now' - O'Brien says Ireland are into World Cup mode

Ireland’s openside flanker was happy with the defensive effort against Italy.

Murray Kinsella reports from London

IT CERTAINLY WASN’T pretty, but Sean O’Brien feels Ireland will be the better for their nervous 16-9 win over Italy on Sunday, particularly with a massive game against France to come this weekend.

IrelandÕs Sean O'Brien O'Brien says Ireland's attacking game was where they fell short. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Despite expectations of a strong Ireland win against the Italians, they were made to work incredibly hard to come away with four match points after what was an uninspired collective display.

Jacques Brunel’s Italians thundered into the collisions in a manner Canada and Romania hadn’t in Ireland’s two previous World Cup games, giving Ireland a timely physical test before facing France.

“Yeah, I think we did (need it),” said Sean O’Brien. “I think it’s really started now, you know? It could be no harm for us in the long run. It was a very physical game, they came hard off the line at us and the French will do the same next week.

We know as a group of players that nothing is going to be easy, but I suppose it’s more about us and what we can bring to the table and we didn’t do that at times (against Italy).

“We know what we’re coming up against next weekend and we know that we’re going to have to improve an awful lot and make sure that we’re on our game.”

Ireland were relatively pleased with their defensive effort, according to O’Brien, particularly given that their turnovers allowed Italy to test it in demanding ways on the counter-attack. Peter O’Mahony’s try-saving tackle was an obvious memorable moment.

Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien O'Brien was replaced by Chris Henry in the second half. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

O’Brien says that it was Ireland’s attack that stuttered.

“They made us uncomfortable at times, but I thought our D actually wasn’t too bad,” said O’Brien. “We got caught that time when Pete threw in that last tackle, but other than that I thought our shape at ‘D’ was pretty good.

We were making some good hits as well. I think it was our own attack that stopped us getting in better positions on the field and getting us scoring opportunities. We can look back and work on that. And, as I said, get those things right for next week.”

O’Brien himself was far from his best form, enduring a frustrating game at the breakdown and failing to be as effective as he can be when carrying the ball. The openside will be critical of himself in reviewing the game and head coach Joe Schmidt will certainly expect more from one of his key men.

The flanker wasn’t the only man to drop below his usual performance level and the improvements will need to come across the board for Ireland.

“We’re going to have to be a lot better and really up our game and make sure that all our basics are done really well,” said O’Brien. “Then we can get excited for the week ahead.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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