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O’Connell Relishing Lineout Duel With Matfield

O’Connell Relishing Lineout Duel With Matfield

Captain Paul O’Connell insists Ireland are not looking for perfection ahead of their clash with South Africa but need the mental resolve and physical force to beat the Springboks, who are ranked number 2 in the world.

Speaking after the Captain’s Run today, Paul O’Connell said: “You always strive to be perfect but you have to realise balls will go down on the ground – you have to win those balls on the ground.

“We have been involved in so many matches that the ball on the ground has won or lost you games, particularly against a team against South Africa with the way they have been playing off loose ball, off counter attack ball.

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“We have seen clip after clip of them attacking deep from their own half where they have turned over ball. You don’t have to be perfect, your attitude and your mental resolve have to be perfect, but it’s very hard to play a perfect game of rugby.

“You have to strive for it, but that’s another thing we have discussed. We need to react to everything. There will be a mistakes from them and from us and it’s how you react to them is a big part of how you will perform on the day.”

O’Connell played in Ireland’s first win over the Springboks in over 30 years back in November 2004 – stopping a run of eight losses which went back to 1981 – and also featured in Ireland’s last victory against them in Novemer 2009.

He also captained the British & Irish Lions in their 2009 third Test success in South Africa, and the 35-year-old admitted that he has really enjoyed his tussles with the ‘Boks over the years.

“It’s the kind of game, they’re getting fewer. There are probably going to be very few for me in the future but they are the kind of game you dream about being involved in.

“Some of my best memories in rugby are these games – Ireland versus South Africa, the Lions versus South Africa. They are brilliant rugby team, a brilliant rugby nation.

“We are not thinking about the guys (we have out injured). We have an excellent pack of forwards, an excellent team and we are looking forward to tomorrow.”

South Africa’s veteran second row Victor Matfield praised O’Connell earlier in the week, saying the Limerick man was the best player he has played against.

The 37 year-old has won it all at club and international level, the Super Rugby title, the Tri Nations and the Rugby World Cup. O’Connell believes Matfield’s winning mentality is echoed throughout the ranks of the current South African side. 

“He’s the best lineout forward in the world and has been for a long time. Even to be able to take two years out and come back and be as good, if not better than he ever was, is an incredible achievement,” the Irish skipper said of Matfield.

“He still seems to be using pretty much the same system he has used for I’d say seven, eight, nine years, same lineout, and teams just can’t come near him on his ball. You see the New Zealand game (recently) – the amount of lineouts that South Africa upset all across the board, not just Victor Matfield but (Duane) Vermeulen as well.

“It contributed massively to the result because it puts teams under pressure. If you can’t be assured of your own ball when you want to go touch, when you want to start plays, when you want to exit from your own half of the pitch, it’s a really tough way to play the game.

“It’s probably something South Africa have been missing in recent years and he’s brought it back with abundance to them.

“He has a fantastic record as well having beaten us in the (2009) Lions tour, won a World Cup (in 2007), his record in the Super 15. He’s a fantastic player and I was delighted with the compliment, but it’s all irrelevant come tomorrow evening.”