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22nd Nov 2014

Paul O’Connell cracks a smile or two as Ireland end 2014 on a high

Try as he might he suggest otherwise, the inspirational lock is a satisfied soul tonight

Patrick McCarry

The Irish captain’s steely demeanor cracked twice in the victorious post-match press conference

It has been remarked about Paul O’Connell, by Keith Wood, that the Munster man will only ever crack a smile if Ireland win a World Cup. While all around him were rejoicing over the 26-23 win over Australia, O’Connell was keen to stress that major improvements are needed if 2015 is to be a year seared as a success in the history books.

He declared, ‘I don’t know if it is a game we would have lost 12 months ago. Certainly we were a lot happier with how if finished. It is something we haven’t done well, between New Zealand, France and South Africa. So to see the quality they brought off the bench for the last 20 minutes and for us to be able to defend the way we did and not give them any easy outs was very satisfying.’

Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss spoke about Joe Schmidt’s suspected appendicitis by declaring he ‘toughed out the game’ before ceding to medical advice and going for a check-up. Kiss said, ‘We all had heart palpitations when Australia put Beale and Cooper on near the end.’ Kiss added, ”A lot of good things have happened for us this year… We won’t get too far ahead of ourselves.’

O’Connell, who made a huge turnover-making tackle at the death to clinch the result, towed a similar line to the Irish coaching staff. He said, ‘We’ve been here before and it didn’t serve us well.’

Ian Madigan and Jamie Heaslip celebrate winning a late penalty to end the game 22/11/2014

The Irish captain made a wry comment about the New Zealander in the post-match briefing that suggested his illness was not too serious. ‘The guys were aware Joe was sick; he was kind of stand-offish,’ he remarked.

The only other time O’Connell’s mask slipped was when he was asked if he had a Christmas message for an oft-times critical George Hook, he said, ‘When we watch the game, all the commentary has gone off it and you can just hear the Ref-link with it, which is hard enough, so I didn’t hear (Hook’s) comments.’ O’Connell paused, smiled, and added, ‘Sure we’re well used to it at this stage.

As if to drive the point home, Rory Best spoke of being in a similar situation to the one his team currently finds themselves in.

The hooker said, ‘In 2006 the team did something and won three games then some 11 months later at the World Cup it didn’t go according to plan. For us we’ve talked about learning lessons. We’ve talked about closing games out and taking each game as it comes. Now it is very much a case of doing it again.

‘The results will put a bit of pressure on us as teams want to come and beat us but it is a good place to be.’

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