ON the 7th of January Munster legend Paul O’Connell was announced as the new forwards coach for the Irish rugby team.
O’Connell had previously coached the Ireland U20s as well as French Top 14 club Stade Francais.
As recent as October the 2009 Lions captain admitted that he didn’t see himself having a future in professional coaching, citing it as ‘too full-on’. O’Connell departed Stade Francais after just one season saying ‘”they do some things very differently there to the way I would like”.
However, a call from Ireland boss Andy Farrell offering him the chance to coach on the international stage made the 41 year-old reconsider. Farrell worked closely with O’Connell on the 2013 Lions tour of Australia and their relationship has grown since.
“We have had him in camp a couple of times and I have always been interested in what his thoughts are and what his next steps are etc,” said Farrell. “I suppose conversations just keep on happening over a period of time and, yeah, the timing is right for now for Paul to come into camp and get ready for this Six Nations.”
Irish captain Johnny Sexton held an equally enthusiastic attitude towards the addition of O’Connell.
“I obviously know what an impact Paul has on teams by playing under him when he was captain of Ireland, and for 10 or 15 years with Ireland and Munster, the impact he had on their environments and he’s no different here.
“He’s a brilliant leader, he’s a brilliant person and his passion for the game is second to none and that will rub off on us. I’m really looking forward to working with him.” he said.
Another man who knows O’Connell well from Lions tours is Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree. As the Six Nations looms closer and closer, the Englishman was also asked whether he thinks O’Connell can succeed in his new job despite his limited coaching CV.
“Paul has an aura about him. I always thought he’d take to coaching. He loves a lineout – crikey he loves a lineout! He’ll give them a bit of steel and some experience and energy. I think it’s a brilliant appointment.”
Ireland’s Six Nations campaign kicks off on Sunday the 7th of February away to Wales at 15:00.
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