Paul O’Connell is looking forward to locking horns with the USA in Sunday’s Rugby World Cup opener in New Plymouth, having professed himself to be happy with Ireland’s pre-tournament preparations.
Paul O’Connell and his team-mates have been based in New Zealand since September 1 and are one of the last sides to enter Rugby World Cup action.
O’Connell insists there is plenty of confidence and self belief in the camp as they approach the Pool C opener against the Eddie O’Sullivan-coached Americans.
Asked what improvements they have sought since last month’s disappointing run of results, Ireland’s pack leader said: “We looked at a few things alright which I’m sure we would have done win, lose or draw.
“I suppose for us, you look at the England game where a few things stood out. The physicality of the England team versus our physicality at the time and the errors we made.
“I think a lot of those things are fixable fairly quickly. We’ve got a good set piece; good defence. We’d be very worried if those areas were struggling and you were trying to fix those overnight.
“I think a lot of the errors were down to trying too much at times. We need to be just a little more patient and a little more direct.
“Having looked at ourselves, I wouldn’t be majorly worried. A lot of the problems we’ve had in those four games are fairly fixable with the right attitude.”
O’Connell has only one previous experience of playing the USA. He formed the second row partnership with Donncha O’Callaghan when Ireland beat the Eagles 55-6 at Lansdowne Road back in November 2004.
Any American team is always very motivated and O’Sullivan is sure to have them well drilled and tuned in as to where Ireland’s weaknesses lie.
But there is the added factor of Sunday being the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A minute’s silence will be held before the game at Stadium Taranaki and both sides will wear black armbands as a mark of respect.
O’Connell is sure the emotion of the day will provide the American players will extra impetus as they strive for their first win in seven Test meetings with Ireland.
“A lot of guys asked each other at dinner during the week where they were when it (9/11) happened. We’re certainly aware of it,” added the 78-times capped lock.
“It focuses our minds as well because we know how motivated they’ll be for the occasion. It’s a very poignant occasion.
“Hopefully it will be a good game tomorrow that’s well remembered. You use everything you can to motivate yourself and I’m sure they’ll have it channelled in the right way.”
Speaking at today’s pre-match press conference, defence coach Les Kiss commented: “It’s quite emotional for a lot of people in the world. The Irish rugby community lost some people in 9/11, as did the US rugby community.
“It’s a grave thing to remember really. Will the emotion take over? I don’t think so. Eddie’s smart enough to check that.
“But we have to recognise that it’s a terrible thing that happened 10 years ago. Hopefully we can look at it in a good light at the end of the game.”
Ireland got a chance to familarise themselves with the 26,000-capacity ground again when they held their Captain’s Run session there earlier today.
O’Connell was injured when Declan Kidney’s men played at Stadium Taranaki in June of last year, going down 66-28 to World Cup hosts New Zealand.
His Munster colleagues Keith Earls and Denis Leamy sat out today’s session as a precaution, but there is no concern over their availability for Sunday’s game.
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