Friday 9 December 2016

O'Connell's passion will set tempo for Ireland campaign

Munster warrior the perfect leader as Schmidt's charges prepare for battle

Published 31/01/2014 | 02:30

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell is one of the fiercest competitors in the game
Ireland captain Paul O'Connell is one of the fiercest competitors in the game

During the week leading up to Ireland's momentous World Cup victory over Australia in 2011, Paul O'Connell fell victim to one of the squad's infamous "court sittings."

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His 'punishment' for throwing six with a dice was to have a cat's nose and whiskers drawn onto his face, coupled with a commitment to leave the artwork in place for 24 hours. Professional rugby tends to exist as this bizarre paradox of giddy childishness sitting cheek to jowl with epochal machismo.

And O'Connell, one of the game's most ferocious competitors, can transition from one to the other without conspicuous effort. The hard, taciturn figure, so familiar to rugby crowds obscures a lighter side to the Limerick man. A man Ronan O'Gara describes as "one of the wittiest guys you'll ever meet."

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