Six Nations 2015: Paul O’Connell wary of dangerous Scotland
Ireland captain insists he will not be thinking about championships before or during their must-win match at BT Murrayfield
Paul O’Connell has urged his Ireland colleagues to stay focused on securing a win against Scotland on “Super Saturday”.
With the RBS 6 Nations set for a thrilling final day with all three matches featuring countries vying for the title, there will be a lot of eyes on matches before and after Ireland walk out at BT Murrayfield.
We’ve a lot of respect for them, especially as the spine of their team is from the Glasgow side that have been doing extremely well.
Ireland captain Paul O’Connell on Scotland
Ireland are second behind England on points difference, while Scotland go into the match aiming to avoid a championship whitewash after four narrow defeats from their opening four matches.
Captain O’Connell is familiar with the mindset of teams with nothing to lose, recalling Ireland’s unlikely 24-8 win over England in Dublin back in 2011, so there has been no drop off in Ireland’s preparations.
“I think we’ve all been there,” he said.
“I remember being in the Aviva Stadium in 2011 when England were coming over to try to win a championship, and we had struggled.
“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’s 100th cap for Ireland ended on a sour note in Cardiff last Saturday as their Grand Slam hopes were shot down with a 23-16 to Wales, but the landmarks keep coming for the Munsterman as he stands to become Ireland’s oldest captain and could lead Ireland to back-to-back championships for the first time since 1949.
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.
Paul O’Connell on his focus for Super Saturday
Wales also have a chance of claiming the title, but must overhaul both Ireland and England when they start the thrilling trio of matches against Italy in Rome.
Ireland are up in the middle match, before England host France at Twickenham at 17:00.
But the Munster lock is also well aware that, if Ireland get caught up in looking at the bigger picture, they could come unstuck against a Scotland side with nothing to lose in front of a sold out BT Murrayfield.
“It’s massive obstacle,” he added.
“I know where Scotland will be mentally, so it’s a massive challenge, but talk about championships is not on my mind at the moment.
“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.
“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 case [on Saturday].”
O’Connell admits he is surprised that Scotland have failed to get a win in the championship under former Clermont Auvergne master Vern Cotter, despite going into the tournament off the back of an impressive autumn series.
But the 35-year-old also revealed his respect for Cotter’s team that has been built largely on Gregor Townsend’s Glasgow Warriors side that currently lead the Guinness PRO12 from Ulster and O’Connell’s Munster.
“I am very surprised,” he said.
“I’ve played against teams coached by Vern Cotter for a few years, and they are excellent sides.
“I don’t think [Scotland have] been well-beaten in any of their games; they’ve been very unlucky not to get some results.
“No team has pulled away from them; every game has been tight, and it was the same when we played them last year.
“We’ve a lot of respect for them, especially as the spine of their team is from the Glasgow side that have been doing extremely well.”