PAUL O’CONNELL HIGHLIGHTED the best-laid plans of this Ireland team after today’s hugely impressive 26 – 3 victory over Wales.
Playing last Sunday and again today, gave Joe Schmidt’s side a six-day turnaround to navigate with only 90 minutes serious training time in between.
Such was Ireland’s dominance at the breakdown and set-piece, the Ireland captain was allowed to leave the field after an hour with Wales never looking capable of making a comeback.
The hard work, it seems, had been done long before that:
“We were very conscious of the six-day turnaround,” the captain told RTE.
“Particularly against as physical team as Wales. The boys managed themselves really well, the coaching staff managed us really well and we were in the position to still be as physical as we were last week.”
All told Ireland gave away just nine penalties across the 80 minutes, two more than in last week’s win over Scotland, but crucially only one of that number gave a kicking opportunity to Leigh Halfpenny.
“I think discipline-wise was very important to keep us where we were for the last few games. Discipline is a great way to put teams under pressure.
“Jonny [Sexton)'s kicking gave us some points on the board and then the conditions changed made it] hard to chase a game.”
He added: “It’s definitely a big thing to be aggressive and physical, as intense as you can be while being very disciplined and very accurate in everything you do. That’s the way we were today.”
The win sees Ireland surpass last year’s lowly final tally of three points from five games, but O’Connell cut a stoic figure as he charted the differences between the team then as it looks now.
“Joe [Schmidt] spoke a lot about last year’s losses, being one score games. We’ve looked at all those games and looked at a penalty here, a penalty there, a little inaccuracy here when we’ve had the ball.
“To go out there against the champions and produce a win of that margin is brilliant for the squad and it’s a great feeling.”
The one early piece of injury news emerging from the Aviva stadium is a suspected fracture in the forearm of Dan Tuohy, who managed just nine minutes after replacing O’Connell.
The Ulster lock aside, the squad will be given a few days to rest and recuperate on their own time before regrouping in Clonmel in preparation for what could be a Triple Crown match at Twickenham.
“When you saw the fixture list,” said O’Connell, ”two home games. even though second game was against the champions, you would have been hopeful of being two from two at this stage.
“But it gets a whole lot harder from here: two years ago [away to England] was a hard day for a lot of these players and it’s going to be tough in two weeks time.”