Ireland are in the unusual position of half-knowing what they will have to do on Saturday if they are to claim the Six Nations crown, as they have the luxury of playing after Wales. Ireland will be well aware if Wales have beaten Italy and by how much. The yang: they finish before England meet France. For their esteemed captain, Paul O’Connell, though, the maths of who will need what and when and by how much are a sideshow. First up, beat Scotland.
True, Scotland are not in the mix for winning the title but they will be keen to avoid the old “WS”. As such, the Ireland captain expects them to start at “100 miles an hour” at Murrayfield.
“I think we’ve all been there,” O’Connell said yesterday. “I remember being in the Aviva Stadium in 2011 when England were coming over to try to win a Championship and we had struggled,” said O’Connell. “We’d struggled for form and we used that game as a massive spark for us, we saw it as a great opportunity. We weren’t really playing for anything; we had nothing to lose, so we started at 100 miles an hour and didn’t slow down. So that’s why the preparation hasn’t changed.”
O’Connell – poised to become Ireland’s oldest captain of all time in Edinburgh – admitted it will be “dangerous” for Joe Schmidt’s side to let minds wander to the equations. “It’s like the Heineken Cup or Champions Cup, where it’s a dangerous place to go to start thinking about anything but winning the game,” said O’Connell.
“You’ll have a plan going into the game of how to beat a team and you’ll try to execute that as well as you can. That’s all we’ve spoken about and that’s all we’ve addressed. I’m sure things will happen throughout the day but our big focus is the start of the game, starting the game well, starting in disciplined fashion and getting ourselves off on the right foot. That’s the same as if we were coming over here to win by one point.
“That’s all you can do, and whatever happens, happens. I won’t be paying much attention to it all, and I certainly hope we won’t be paying too much attention to it. Any other year we’d be trying to win the game first and foremost: and that will be the same.”
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