Ireland captain Paul O’Connell wants it to be a case of business as usual when he makes his Dublin farewell as a Test match player on Saturday.
O’Connell will bow out of Test rugby after the forthcoming World Cup campaign in England and Wales following a stellar international career that has so far harvested 102 Ireland caps, while he also went on three British and Irish Lions tours.
Wales, the country that O’Connell made his Test debut against on home soil 13 years ago, are fittingly the opposition this weekend in what is a last warm-up game for both countries ahead of Ireland boss Joe Schmidt and Wales head coach Warren Gatland announcing their World Cup squads next week.
O’Connell is guaranteed a rapturous Aviva Stadium send-off, whatever the result, but he has no intention of being distracted.
“There seems to be a lot of final everythings for me lately!” he said, speaking at a press conference in Dublin on Friday.
“It is my first start (of the summer), and it’s more where I am going to be in terms of my playing and my fitness is where my mind is at the moment.
“I have had a good pre-season, but it has been two-and-a-half months since I started a game, so I am just eager to get out and see where I am and put in a good performance.
“That side of it (Dublin farewell) hasn’t been big for me this week.
“I was disappointed with some of the things I did in the Scotland game (two weeks ago), and I am eager to correct those. It’s about the game, and getting it right.”
Reigning RBS 6 Nations champions Ireland have been tipped by many to reach at least the World Cup semi-finals – they have never previously progressed beyond the last eight – and they go into the Wales encounter after beating them in Cardiff earlier this month, before toppling Scotland last time out.
England at Twickenham next Saturday will complete Ireland’s competitive World Cup preparation, and then it will be down to business and qualification from a World Cup pool that also features France, Italy, Canada and Romania.
“We are all about preparation and how we train, and training at a certain level and intensity,” O’Connell, 35, added.
“You regret a mistake in training almost as much as you regret a mistake in a match, and that’s a great place to be when you are trying to prepare really well for big games.
“The way we prepare, we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves. We just put the emphasis on what is right in front of us.
“There are certainly things we would like to do a little bit better from the Scotland game. One of our big things is trying to improve from championship to championship and game to game, and we probably took a step back in some of the things we did in the Scotland game.
“We are staying very focused on the short-term, taking these matches really seriously and not looking too far beyond them. It works for us, and we will stick to it.
Once the final whistle has sounded on Saturday, though, O’Connell should expect an emotional exit.
Tomorrow will be Paul O'Connell's last Irish home match let's give a great send off ! pic.twitter.com/cKNSTElUby— Peter's Pub (@PetersPubDublin) August 28, 2015
“It has been a very enjoyable experience playing in Ireland and playing in Dublin at the Aviva in Lansdowne Road. It’s every kid’s dream,” he said.
“It has always been a dream of everyone to play for their country, so to play in the Aviva and in Lansdowne Road as many times as I have, and had as many great days as I have, has been brilliant.”