Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

O’Connell has unfinished business with All Blacks

Paul O'Connell has faced the All Blacks on seven occasions and lost each time.

Four of those encounters were in the green of Ireland, three in Lions red, and it was with the one nation rather than the four that he came closest to victory.

Saturday will be the 22nd time the two countries have clashed and Ireland have yet to register a win. Yet, in each of the four games O'Connell faced New Zealand (2002, two in 2006 and last summer) an Irish victory was on the cards entering the endgame.

The difference between gallant defeat and glorious victory can be a matter of inches and O'Connell, speaking at the team hotel in Limerick yesterday, believes those inches could be the top four in Irish heads.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney is a man O'Connell knows well from Munster and the second row believes Kidney's long acknowledged psychological preparation skills may prove to be the difference after 103 years of failure.

"Maybe yeah, maybe that's it. I talk about it (psychology) with Munster. By the time I came into the Munster team I expected to win every game I played in," said O'Connell.

"There was a time when Anthony (Foley), Gaillimh (Mick Galwey), Claw (Peter Clohessy) and Quinny (Alan Quinlan) played with Munster and they didn't expect that to happen. They had a season around 1999/2000 (under Kidney) where the whole psyche of the team kinda changed.

"You get to the stage now where Keith Earls comes in, not just expecting to win every game; he expects to win a Heineken Cup. That's where we need to get to with Ireland and that's a very hard thing, to change the attitude of the mindset of people and the psyche of people."

New Zealand respect is hard-earned and beating the Blacks is central to it. O'Connell had a big reputation going down to New Zealand in 2005 but could not locate his best game on that ill-fated Lions trip and, though he produced two big performances against them subsequently for Ireland, he knows that, without victory, performance is irrelevant.

"It would be a big regret for a lot of us if we didn't beat them at some stage in our career whether it comes this week or some day in the future, I don't know.”

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