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Ireland captain Paul O'Connell calls for a full 85-minute display against Australia

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell has challenged his players to play until the final whistle against Australia this afternoon.

Conceding a last gasp try against South Africa put a dampener on the side's celebrations a fortnight ago and reminded the squad of their dramatic end-games against France and New Zealand last season.

The Munster hero is in search of continuous improvement with the national team and believes his side must stop switching off in the final moments of games.

And, given the Wallabies have endured dramatic heartbreak in their recent games against New Zealand and France, there is a strong chance that composure in the final moments could be crucial at the Aviva Stadium.

"It's something that we have spoken about ourselves," the captain said.

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"It's probably something we haven't covered ourselves in glory in recent months when you look back at New Zealand, you look back at the France game, you look back at obviously South Africa two weeks ago where we conceded a try.

"You have to be an 85 minute team, there is no doubt about it. While we haven't spoken directly about Australia being it, we have spoken about ourselves being able to shut teams out right until the last minute and that is something we need to address and it's something we need to do."

O'Connell dismissed French media reports linking him with a post-World Cup move to Pau, denying there had been any contact between himself and the ProD2 leaders.

His main focus remains fully on beating a Wallaby side who proved too strong during Joe Schmidt's second game in charge last season.

And he wants to learn the lessons of that disappointing day when Ireland left their intensity behind.

"I think we've pretty much improved since then," he said.

"There's been disappointments along the way, the England game in the Six Nations and some aspects of Argentina.

"I think a lot of guys realised early on in the week, you've got to lock away that detail and knowledge and you've got to get ready to play a rugby match."

Australia captain Michael Hooper, meanwhile, says his new boss Michael Cheika has brought an end to Wallabies stars cosily expecting to command regular selection.

Openside flanker Hooper admitted taskmaster head coach Cheika has disabused his squad of any notion of holding on to starting berths through mediocre performance.

Former Leinster boss Cheika has replaced Ewen McKenzie, who fell on his sword last month amid Kurtley Beale's lewd text saga with business manager Di Patston, who also resigned.

Hooper said Cheika's unremitting training sessions are quickly whipping the Wallabies into shape, the Waratahs captain sporting a healthy black eye from a midweek session as proof.

"I guess a change that Cheika has brought in is that no one's spot is safe," said Hooper. "You have got to keep on your game or else your spot is up there for grabs.

"Everyone has got to be playing hard, training hard first of all, and then if you are doing that it should relate to a good performance at the weekend.

"There is an abundance of back-row guys especially, for example, over here and at home who will all be putting up their hand, not only the next two weeks but come next year throughout the Super Rugby season and into the World Cup preparation.

"I got the black eye in training on Monday. It was friendly fire in a nice relaxed controlled drill and I ended up with a shiner.

"It was a complete accident but I guess it's an indication of how tough training has been."

Australia head into today's Aviva Stadium clash aiming to avoid equalling their worst run of form since the fallout from losing the 2013 series against the British and Irish Lions.

The Wallabies' victory over Wales in Cardiff remains their only win in five games, and Hooper admitted that Cheika's side have a point to prove in Dublin.

 

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