Sunday 25 June 2017

O'Connell hot favourite to fill O'Driscoll void

Paul O'Connell. Photo: Getty Images
Paul O'Connell. Photo: Getty Images

Hugh Farrelly

PAUL O'CONNELL is overwhelming favourite to replace Brian O'Driscoll as Ireland captain when they open their Six Nations campaign against Wales in Dublin on February 5.

The Ireland squad go into training camp for the first time since the World Cup when they gather at Carton House this evening, with the possibility of an announcement on who takes over from the injured O'Driscoll before they break up at lunchtime on Saturday.

With O'Driscoll undergoing an expected six-month rehabilitation after shoulder surgery, Ladbrokes have O'Connell -- the Munster and most recent Lions captain -- at 1/5 to lead the side against Wales, with his nearest challenger, Ulster's Rory Best, at 5/1.

Other candidates include Rob Kearney, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip but the bookmakers are not looking beyond the big two.

With a round of Pro12 fixtures taking place this weekend, it's expected that between 22 and 25 players will meet up in Kildare this evening, and these will be drawn primarily from the 30 that travelled to New Zealand 2011.

As well as various meetings and analysis sessions, there is training scheduled for tomorrow and Saturday before the squad breaks up around lunchtime on New Year's Eve. That could be after a new captain is appointed, or Declan Kidney may prefer to delay making an announcement until the Six Nations squad is named.

Elsewhere, Andy Farrell is excited by the "feast" of talent available to England as they look to make a fresh start in the Six Nations. But the Saracens coach, who will join Stuart Lancaster's interim England management team next month, warned there would be no cheap caps on offer.

Lancaster will announce a 32-man Six Nations squad on January 11, and it could include up to 17 players who did not feature in the World Cup. "It's a feast for us at the minute, but we have to get it right. Nobody gets a cap if they're not ready," said Farrell.

Irish Independent

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