Ireland, having lost three successive matches, away twice to Argentina and now to Scotland, should freak O’Sullivan out.
Not so. He appears to be looking at the bigger picture; acknowledging that his second string Irish side deserved their 31-21 defeat at Murrayfield but also pointing out that he gained some answers to vital questions.
On the scale of disasters, Ireland’s trip to Murrayfield wasn’t half as bad as Wales’ trip to Twickenham a week before. Ireland lost by ten points, but O’Sullivan was satisfied Ireland had performed reasonably in the second half after a disastrous start.
But O’Sullivan insists he is now in a better position than heading into the last World Cup. “The important difference is that there is certainly a more intense competition for places. We’re not saying it’s the perfect world, but it’s a better one that we were in last time around. In terms of driving the squad on, it makes the dynamics a lot easier for myself and the staff,” he said.
O’Sullivan said the defeat was “disappointing”. He said: We went out with an under-strength, although highly motivated, side against what was probably their strongest team, and it was bound to be a tough day.
“People might say that we should have lost by more, but we could have lost by less or sneaked a result. We made a lot of mistakes and a lot came down to the fact that it was a new team put together, a lot of rustiness and I thought, strangely, that the conditions suited them. It allowed them to play the game they wanted to play and we lost collisions early in the game, coughing up three tries. By the time we recovered, it was too late.
“There were a lot of young guys out there, a lot of inexperience and they found it difficult to claw their way back when the game was going against them. But the game served it’s purpose.”
“The trip to Argentina and this game in Scotland is not an end, it’s a means to an end and I figure we’ve got a fair bit out of them, in terms of what we have to work on and in terms of setting or re-setting our goals.” he said.
Geordan Murphy had a storming match and the coach was first to admit it.
“He had to step up to the mark and he certainly did that. When the chips are down and you know you’re under a bit of pressure, then you need to deliver. He needed that performance more for himself than anyone else. It’s a good feeling for him. The challenge was to throw down a marker for the World Cup. He did that, he’s better for it and the team are better for it.”
Assistant coach Niall O’Donovan was disappointed at Ireland’s dismal first half display up front.
The forwards coach O’Donovan : “I have to say that the first half display wasn’t up to scratch. But they stepped up a gear after the break and finished very strongly.
“I think some of that might have been down to the way we conditioned the team; we only brought contact drills into play in the last week and I feel that showed; they were a bit ring-rusty in that area. I would not see that as an ongoing problem,” he said.
Scotland scorers: Tries: Hogg, Henderson 3, Murray. Cons: Paterson 2, Parks.
R. Lamont, S. Lamont, Dewey, Henderson, Webster, Paterson, Blair, Jacobsen, Ford, Murray, Hines, Hamilton, White, Hogg, Taylor.
Replacements: Walker for Dewey (60), Parks for Paterson (60), Cusiter for Blair (60), Thomson for Ford (39), Smith for Murray (56), MacLeod for White (56), Brown for Taylor (38).
Murphy, Carney, O’Driscoll, Duffy, Bowe, Wallace, Boss, Young, Flannery, S. Best, O’Kelly, O’Connell, N. Best, Ferris, Heaslip.
Replacements: O’Gara for O’Driscoll (66), Trimble for Duffy (24), Reddan for Boss (74), Hayes for Young (70), R. Best for Flannery (74), Quinlan for O’Kelly (22), Gleeson for N. Best (65). Att: 25,127
Ireland scorers: Tries: Boss, Trimble. Cons: Wallace. Pens: Wallace 2, Murphy.
T Spreadbury (England).