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Ireland go into Sunday's GUINNESS Series game with a record of played 27, drawn one and lost 26 against the current World champions, but Paul O'Connell feels the current crop of players are the closest to ending that run.

"We spoke about the opportunity of making history. It is something we addressed very early on in the week. Joe (Schmidt) has spoken about it. I think if there is ever an Irish team that I have been on that is capable of doing it, it is this one," said the team captain.

"I think we are an excellent side, with a lot of talent that just isn't playing well at the moment. That needs to stop somewhere.

"We need to put in that performance and produce that performance somewhere. Hopefully we are in a good position to do that this weekend."

With a victory for New Zealand guaranteeing a perfect 14-Test year for Steve Hansen's men, O'Connell believes the visitors are some way ahead of the rest of the rugby fraternity. However, after last Saturday's defeat to Australia, he insists belief is not a problem for Ireland.

"We have enough leadership and enough talent in the team to know how good we are and how good we are capable of being.

"Getting over the frustration of Saturday (the defeat to Australia) has been difficult but belief isn't an issue for the team.

"Anytime you look across the likes of Brian O'Driscoll, Johnny Sexton, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip, Cian Healy, in any team, belief isn't a problem.

"We have been very frustrated with our performances. As Joe said, we need that big performance to start gathering confidence and start gathering a bit of momentum and things do become easier then, but it has been a bit of a struggle for the last number of years. We need that big performance now to start becoming the team we can become."

After Ireland's second outing under Schmidt ended in a 32-15 defeat to Australia, O'Connell stated that the Irish management have worked on those defensive frailties.

Inaccuracy in the lineout saw them cough up possession twice in the opening five minutes on their own lineout throw, and rectifying their poor start has been key this week.

"Defence has certainly been addressed quite aggressively, but I don't think it is the only thing. For me the inaccuracy at the start - we lost the lineout, failed to deliver a lineout properly, didn't execute a five-man play and turnover of scrums. You can't turnover the ball cheaply to any of these teams," added the experienced lock.

"You need to be really accurate in everything you do from lineout to scrum to kick chase and that was one of the things that was frustrating last week.

"We needed to start well and get ourselves into the game confidently. We didn't do that. We need to do that this weekend, along with defending really well and not conceding soft tries."

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20 June 2018
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