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Tuesday 2 September 2014

'Majestic' O'Connell backed to lead Lions

Conor George

Published 08/04/2013 | 07:23

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Paul O'Connell takes on the Harlequins defence

PAUL O'CONNELL has been tipped to captain the Lions by both Conor O'Shea and Rob Penney.

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The Harlequins and Munster coaches were effusive in their praise of the talismanic second-row, with O'Shea decreeing the 33-year-old as "the best second-row Ireland has ever produced" and a certain tourist for the summer tour to Australia.

"I thought Paul O'Connell was absolutely majestic, the whole Munster team was physical but he was the totem the whole team rose around," said O'Shea. "He is one of the greatest second-rows in rugby and one of the greatest second-rows Ireland has ever produced, if not the greatest.

"A potential Lions captain? Definitely," O'Shea added.

O'Connell was a fully deserving man of the match on a day when Munster rolled back the years and made a return to their old ways at the Stoop and booked their place in the April 27 semi-final when they will meet Clermont Auvergne.

Their direct approach owed everything to the presence of O'Connell in Munster's second-row. The big man was immense, happily showing no ill effects of his recent physical problems and leading by example.

Penney was just as effusive in his praise for his captain. "Paul's great isn't he? It's hard to explain what he does. Everyone speaks about him in glowing terms and so they should," said Penney.

"First and foremost, he's just a wonderful man. He's a great bloke. And you couple that with his empathetic outlook on life – he sees things through others people's eyes, so he understands the trials and tribulations of what other people are going through.

"He's just got this understanding that makes everyone feel good to be around him. He's just a really complete man and Munster obviously have fed off him for a long period,

"Equally Ronan O'Gara today was superb. You can't speak highly enough about both of them."

And Penney clearly fully expects O'Connell to be on the summer tour with the Lions. Warren Gatland and his coaches were at the Stoop yesterday and must have been impressed.

"Paul's going to get better too. He hasn't played a lot recently so he'll get better with more game time so I suspect late June early July he'll be humming," added Penney.

Munster will play Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Cup semi-final on April 27 at Clermont's Stade de la Mosson ground in a game that will have a 5.0 Irish time kick-off.

HEINEKEN CUP SEMI-FINALS

Clermont v Munster,

Saturday, April 27, Montpellier, 5.0

Saracens v Toulon,

Sunday, April 28, Twickenham, 3.0

AMLIN CHALLENGE CUP semi-finals

Perpignan v Stade Francais, Friday, April 26, 8.0

Leinster v Biarritz,

Saturday April 27, RDS, 2.30

Irish Independent

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