THERE WAS A disjointed nature to Ireland’s victory over Scotland yesterday, but the fact that captain Paul O’Connell missed the game with a chest infection may go some way towards explaining that.
It is difficult for us to judge exactly the importance of the Munster lock’s leadership without being part of the Irish set-up, even if we can clearly see his limitless contributions out on the pitch. Vice-captain Jamie Heaslip gave us a brief glimpse into how O’Connell had set the tone early in the week building up to the Scottish clash.
Paul had given us really good direction in the week, saying ‘We have the knowledge, now in those little actions just show the intensity and passion of playing for Ireland’ and that came out. It was obviously a big shame to lose a character like Paul, a massive leader, an unbelievable teammate and then an unbelievable footballer as well.”
Heaslip paid tribute to Dan Tuohy, who he believes has provided Joe Schmidt with an extra selection “headache” ahead of next weekend and the visit of Wales. The Leinster back row was pleased with the manner in which the Ireland squad adapted to the late loss of O’Connell.
“Joe interrupted my lovely omelette in the morning to tell me the news and it was a bit of a shock. We had walked through line-outs at about 7 o’clock [on Saturday night] and Paul was absolutely fine. It was a big shock to us, but the standard we have in the squad [covered it].
“Dan stepped in, Hendy [Iain Henderson] stepped in on the bench. Rhys [Ruddock] came in as extra cover and everyone slotted it. Everyone knew their role from early in the week.”
Heaslip was the official man of the match in Dublin yesterday. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan.
Yesterday evening was allocated to rest and relaxation for the Irish players, an opportunity to “get the body right” before reconvening at Carton House today. Schmidt will now lead a review of the Scotland performance for the entire squad this evening.
With time for preparation a little tighter than usual, Ireland will have less time to dwell on the positives of their three-try, 22-point win over Scott Johnson’s side. Focus turns to Wales and the need to progress for that game.
Yeah, huge improvements [are needed]. We’re happy, obviously, to win but Joe had a couple of choice words for us in the changing room afterwards and will probably have a few more for us tomorrow night when we get together and review.
“We all know there’s positives, but there are a lot of work ons going into next week. It’s a huge challenge going up against a team who have won the championship two years in a row. After playing with a lot of them in the summer [for the Lions], I know a lot about them.
“They’re big guys, physical guys and good footballers, so it’s a massive challenge.”