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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

O’Connell: Pumas Game Requires “Something Special”

O’Connell: Pumas Game Requires “Something Special”

Whilst admitting that “things clicked a little bit” for Ireland against France last week, lock and vice-captain Paul O’Connell feels the team will have to do something special to get the required result against Argentina in Paris on Sunday.

Ireland have a target of beating Argentina by at least eight points, and scoring four tries in the process, in order to finish in Pool D’s top two and qualify for the World Cup’s quarter-finals.

O’Connell is optimistic about Sunday’s all-or-nothing game at the Parc des Princes, insisting this Irish team have it within them to pull off a bonus point victory.

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“Even though the other day (against France) was disappointing, I think we played better, but at the same time we have to kick on from that game and I think we can,” O’Connell said at the team hotel today.

“Things clicked a little bit against France and if we can go another step up or another two steps up then I think we have a very good chance against the Argentinians and a very good chance of pulling it off and doing something special.

“It is a massive challenge (for us to score four tries) but I think we must just concentrate on beating them. If we can win the game, something might come out of it. We might click and if we concentrate on winning it first and foremost, we’ll see what happens after that.”

Asked to pinpoint why Ireland have so far disappointed in their performances at the tournament, the Munster forward added: “We’re not playing well, that’s what has gone wrong. Sometimes we have over-elaborated, we have struggled to play phases and that has put us under pressure and we have dropped balls. A lot of it is just dropped balls and we’re not going to practice catching.

“It’s not a problem we have, guys sometimes are trying too hard and over-elaborating a little bit. If we stop doing that I’m sure we’ll be fine, and stop making silly mistakes. Until that stops we won’t know where we are.”

So with the aim of scoring four tries against the Pumas, will Ireland be throwing caution to the wind in Paris? “No, we won’t be doing that. I don’t think we will benefit from doing that, I think we have to put Argentina under a bit of pressure but you shouldn’t be doing that from your own half of the pitch,” O’Connell insisted.

“We’ll be trying to play a pressure game where we put phases together and see what happens, and we haven’t been doing that. That’s when teams come under pressure, when they’re defending after six, seven or eight phases and you see little holes in teams’ defences. That’s when we need to start using Brian (O’Driscoll), Darce (Gordon D’Arcy) and Shaggy (Shane Horgan) and these guys. If we can start doing that this weekend, I think we’re in with a chance.”

The Irish players could be forgiven for feeling down at present after three frustrating outings in the tournament to date, but O’Connell explained that the while the results have been “disappointing”, they have not let the media criticism and rumours surrounding the squad get to them.

“We have always ignored the innuendo but results have been disappointing, there’s no doubt about it. You have to try (to ignore the innuendo). They are all lies, you have to put them behind you and ignore them. People are doing it, people who are spreading rumours will have achieved what they want to achieve if you let it get to you. I don’t know who they are – you tell me?

“When you’re aiming high and you’re not playing well, it’s definitely disappointing. But we’re strong enough that there is a collective will there to put it right and if we win at the weekend we’ll have gone a long way towards doing that.

“If we can win with a big performance and do something special by winning by four tries we’re back in the competition. It’s a very long shot but at least we would be back in the competition,” he added.

With Argentina top of the pool and having one foot in the quarter-finals, there is a chance that Marcelo Loffreda’s side could have a change of emphasis from their recent matches and opt to play a tighter game. O’Connell feels that with the versatility in the South Americans’ side, they could go either way in their approach.

“They are a very good team, they can play it both ways. They can play it very tight, they kicked it a lot against France, but if you look at their back-line they are capable of spreading it as well. So you have to cover both bases and that is what we have been trying to do in training,” explained the 27-year-old.

“I don’t know will they be talking about defending a position in their camp. That’s a bad way to put yourself under pressure and to lose a lead. I don’t think they will be defending, they will be coming out to attack themselves and to put us under pressure.”