'Frustrated' Paul O’Connell says Ireland players are taking responsibility for poor results

Paul O’Connell is positive that a corner can be turned by Ireland in the near future
'Frustrated' Paul O’Connell says Ireland players are taking responsibility for poor results

Ireland forward coach Paul O’Connell: 'I've been there before with Irish teams that have done well, I've been there with Irish teams when we've struggled'

Paul O’Connell believes Ireland have to keep working hard and staying calm in order to turn frustrating performances into winning ones.

The former Munster, Ireland and Lions captain is yet to experience victory since his appointment as forwards coach to the national team by Andy Farrell last month. Two defeats in the first two games of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations have left Ireland supporters, players and management alike frustrated.

Yet while O’Connell shares that emotion he is positive that a corner can be turned in the near future.

"We're frustrated, but the boys are working incredibly hard. They're learning an awful lot, taking an awful lot of responsibility,” O’Connell said in a video interview with Oliver Callan conducted in his role as an Aldi ambassador.

"That's the big thing for me, that I've noticed since I came back into camp - how much ownership the players take, how much coaching they do themselves and it's been really impressive.

"Hopefully, we learn a lot from these losses and we grow from them."

He added: “You do feel responsibility, I felt it as a captain and you do feel responsible for the losses in many ways.

There is pressure, but I think we're making good progress. The players are incredibly eager, so we just have to stick to our progress and we'll come out the other side.

“I'm enjoying it, it's hard work and it's heavy going. It's tough when you lose, it's tough on the players. But that's life.

“I've been there before with Irish teams that have done well, I've been there with Irish teams when we've struggled.

“All I know from my experience is that as long as you keep working hard, keep calm and keep an open mind you come through it.

“That's what we have to do.”

Much has been made of the improvements to Ireland’s lineouts since O’Connell’s arrival into camp. The set-piece performance has certainly gone up a level after a series of misfires in 2020 and although that has coincided with the legendary former lock’s appointment as forwards coach having succeeded Simon Easterby, who is now focusing on a single role as defence coach, O’Connell told Callan: “You wouldn't believe how little I do with the lineout.

"Iain Henderson, James Ryan and Tadhg Beirne - the players take a massive amount of responsibility in terms of coming up with a plan, a strategy and then delivering that strategy and making sure all of the other players for whom the lineout isn't the be-all and end-all - like Cian Healy or Dave Kilcoyne - they've a great way of getting everyone on board with what the strategy is and delivering that.

"It's very player-led, which is scary for a coach.

"You want to be all over it, you want to be in there coaching all the time but if the players don't own what they're doing and it's very hard for them to do it with the commitment that's required.

"Even though James Ryan came off in the first game, he'd done a lot of our lineout defence strategy and it's a credit to him how well we defended after that.

"Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson did a great job last weekend. It's been good, we're only two games in and I'd imagine there will be tougher games ahead."

Whether Saturday’s clash with Italy in Rome represents a tougher game remains to be seen but O’Connell also revealed that his reputation for rousing inspirational dressing-room speeches is not coming into play with the modern generation of professional players.

"Guys are ready to play for Ireland now, there's no myths. They know exactly how many metres you cover, how many tackles you've made, how many rucks you've gone to,” he said.

"So, it's about being able to deliver as an individual to make the team perform.

"It's very cool, calm and collected in the dressing-room now."

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