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02nd Jul 2024

Paul O’Connell not fazed by size of Springboks challenge

Zoe Hodges

‘By and large, we focus on ourselves’

Ireland forwards’ coach Paul O’Connor says his team are unfazed by the challenge ahead and are focusing on themselves ahead of their clash with the Springboks.

The 44-year-old said he was unsurprised by the team Rassie Erasmus has chosen and whilst they are not ignoring their competitors, he wanted to focus on his teams’ own strengths.

He said: “We have been a little bit specific about them, but it has been mainly about doing our stuff a little bit better across the board. The boys enjoy doing that, we enjoy focusing on ourselves.

“I think you have to focus on what the opposition are going to do, but by and large we focus on ourselves a little bit more than we did back in my playing days. I certainly enjoy it as a coach as well.”

O’Connell captained the British and Irish Lions when they toured South Africa in 2009.

His side are preparing to face the World Champions and he acknowledged the size of the task ahead: “At the moment (touring South Africa) is a challenge. They are world champions, they have good continuity in their playing group, they know what they stand for, and I’d say there is a lot of confidence in their group at the moment.

“It’s a massive challenge for us to be away from home and down here, but our boys are looking forward to it.”

Erasmus announced his team earlier in the day which features 20 players from last year’s Rugby World Cup campaign.

O’Connell continued: “A big thing for any team that is successful is that kind of continuity. You look at any of the club sides that have been successful in recent times, they have continuity of coaching, continuity of players, continuity of leadership. They are in a strong position and it is an excellent side that they have named.”

Ireland did beat the Springboks last year at the Stade de France 13-8 but O’Connell addressed the issues his side faced at the lineout early on in that match.

“They caught us out at the start of the game in the World Cup. It was pretty frustrating and disappointing, but I was delighted with how the players managed their way through it.

“Two of their lineout operators, Mostert and Etzebeth, are two of the best in the business. Etzebeth is very good at the front of the lineout. Mostert generally covers everything at the back of the lineout.”

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