Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony has echoed head coach Joe Schmidt’s calls for better discipline when the Six Nations champions meet Australia.
Ireland trail 1-0 in the three-Test series and must win today’s game, at AAMI Park, to stay alive in the contest, but to do so must reduce a penalty count that edged into double figures in Brisbane last Saturday.
Australia won the series opener 18-9 at Suncorp Stadium. Ireland conceded 10 penalties, having notched 12 in beating England at Twickenham to win the Grand Slam on March 17. They have been in single figures in each of their seven other Tests this season.
The disciplinary low point for many in last week’s game was the dissent shown by scrum-half Conor Murray.
An Australian scrum was upgraded to a penalty after Murray berated referee Marius van der Westhuizen, for the decision to call a knock-on when there was a Wallabies hand on the ball and it came out of the ruck off a player’s boot.
Schmidt shared the frustration, but told RTÉ Radio: “Conor lost his cool and that’s unacceptable and he’s well aware of that now.”
O’Mahony said Ireland’s behaviour had been addressed during the week, and should be better for the second Test.
“It’s always an area that we know is very important to us, our discipline,” the skipper said. “Ten penalties is considerably more than we give away as an average. So, we’ve spoken about it.
“Obviously, the less access you give to a team like Australia, the better. You saw, with 10 penalties last week, you’re going to struggle.”
Ireland’s other focus is to limit the influence of O’Mahony’s opposite number at blindside flanker, David Pocock. But O’Mahony distanced himself from the Irish newspaper columnist who described the Wallabies star as a “cancer on the game”.
“I don’t read a huge amount of Neil Francis’ stuff, but I don’t think that that’s the opinion that we, as a group or as a nation, have of David. He is an incredible rugby player. We saw that with the impact he had on the game last week,” O’Mahony said.
As to how to stop Pocock, O’Mahony added: “It’s a very difficult thing to do. He’s a quality rugby player and he’s been proving that for a long time.
“Look, it’s an individual battle that we have at the breakdown. He’s there and whoever’s there at the breakdown, you’ve got to be there earlier and negate them, which is a difficult thing to do. It’s something we have to try to stop.”
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