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Tommy O'Donnell hits his stride quickly from Ireland bench


Hard knocks: Tommy O’Donnell was Ireland’s top tackler

Hard knocks: Tommy O’Donnell was Ireland’s top tackler

?INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Hard knocks: Tommy O’Donnell was Ireland’s top tackler

He hadn't been expecting to get the call when he was sprung from the bench for Sean O'Brien, but Tommy O'Donnell certainly made an impact and brought a sizeable contribution to the result.

Recalled to the squad after starting in the first game against Italy, when he scored a try, the Munster flanker found himself one moment taking in the atmosphere before kick-off and the next being hurled into the action just after the 20 minute mark.

"During the anthems there my mind flashed back to when I was a kid and on a wet Saturday looking at the TV and I was just thinking 'Jeez it doesn't get any better than this'," O'Donnell said breaking into a smile.

"It was fantastic and a memory I'll cherish now," he added before recalling how he found himself getting the call early in that first half.

"It all happened so quickly, I didn't see Seanie (O'Brien) go down and then I was on.

"I just had to get my mind right and try to make an impact on the game. Lucky I got a carry early on and that was a great way to get in the game," he added.

O'Donnell didn't waste any time getting down to work and at the finish had ended up as Ireland's top tackler with 13 to his name which equalled the number also put in by try scorer Robbie Henshaw.

When asked to explain on just why it is the Irish defensive system works so well, O'Donnell put it down to work-rate and a simple determination not to yield.

"It's just a willingness to work for everyone and a willingness to get up off the ground and make another tackle," he said.

"You just can't dwell on what you've done you just keep going and keep going.

"Credit to the lads and to (defence coach) Les Kiss as we're constantly scrambling and bending but not breaking."

There was no doubting the collective focus and will to win but for O'Donnell this was also about reminding Joe Schmidt of his worth.

"I'm very happy with the performance. To make an impact is encouraging and gives you a bit of a carrot to really push on.

"If you're there, fit and playing, well then you have a chance."

As for having to make way for O'Brien after the Italy game, O'Donnell disguised any personal disappointment.

"It wasn't that bad so you've got to keep trucking," he said.

And as for the essence of this result? He didn't take long to produce an explanation.

"We're just incredibly good at doing what we do," he said.

"We won a lot of 50/50 balls and that was the main difference there in the second half.

"It's all about winning those 50/50s and who's willing to go for it more."

Yesterday, all of that belonged to Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph