Sport Rugby

Sunday 4 December 2016

Q&A with Ireland captain Paul O'Connell

Published 11/09/2015 | 02:30

Paul O'Connell
Paul O'Connell

As captain, how do you treat new players who enter the squad?

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I don't say a lot to them really. I just try have a bit of craic with them. Most guys are picked for a reason. They're picked on their form with their province or their club and all you want them to do is go out and do what they've been doing in order to get picked.

You're not trying to change them and you're not trying to motivate them. You kind of take it for granted as a senior player but I often see these young guys with this incredible journey ahead of them and sometimes I'd love to be back with all the knowledge I have now and go back and apply all that knowledge. Maybe you assume these guys have it under control but perhaps they don't.

Tell us about the impact of Joe Schmidt on the Irish camp?

I think he has a massive trust from the players which would be a big thing. Whatever we do, I think Joe generally has it very well thought out. He has a very good plan in place, and once you have that trust and the commitment of the players to do things well and to a very high standard. . . His way of preparing us, to not get ahead of ourselves and to be as a good as we can for the day that's ahead of us is a massive part of us being good.

What is your memory of this year's dramatic Six Nations victory?

The fans made it, the 20 minutes of the trophy presentation in Murrayfield when they were playings 80s music, it was pitch dark. There was 5,000-6,000 Irish people. I'd never won a championship drinking a pint of Tennents before.

Having won two Six Nations back to back, can this Irish team keep improving?

If we are the same as what we were in the Six Nations, we probably won't be successful. You have to be better each time. We know we can improve on the Six Nations and hopefully we can do that. If you get down to the nuts and bolts of what you have to do each week, to be right, to prepare to the best of your ability and to play to the best of your ability. . . That's the way it should be when you go into Irish camp. You've the best players in the country there. It should be a higher standard and there is a great vibe that this is the top of the game in the country and so it should be.

You've shown you have all it takes to play at the highest level for 14 years now. What do you remember about your debut?

With Wales in 2002, one to 10 in that game apart from Simon Easterby, were all Munster men and they were all old Munster men.

You had Claw, Frankie Sheahan, Hayes, Gaillimh, myself, Simon at six, Wally at seven, Foley at eight, Stringer at nine and ROG at 10. For me, there was very little pressure or stress on me and it was just kind of an armchair ride. It does make it easier with those older fellas and the sense of humour they had. It was all a laugh and a joke all week long because you were going to be nervous enough and you were going to be up for it anyway because it's your first international and it's in Lansdowne Road.

For me, having them around made it all so much easier. There wasn't as much to know back then, I mean we had to know our lineouts and after that I mean there was no real game-plan. Just chase the ball and make as many tackles as you can.

Your fourth and final World Cup is just around the corner, tell us about your first one in 2003?

There were so many Irish there in Australia. We played in the Telstra Dome in Melbourne and we stayed in the Holiday Inn which was just across the road from the casino.

We used to spend a few hours in the evening in the casino - there was plenty of Irish there. For me being so young it was an incredible few weeks, it was brilliant.

We played some really good rugby. We played a really high-pressure game against Argentina. I suppose the pressure of the occasion was lost on me a little bit but we really needed to beat them to avoid having to qualify for the next World Cup.

It was a really tough pool but once we beat Argentina we got a bit of confidence. It's just a shame we didn't finish the job off and get a win against Australia.

How do you switch off from rugby?

I think taking your day off from training hard is one of the most important things you can do. I mean taking it off, not in the sense of going out and having a great day's fun. I mean taking it off in terms of getting your extra sleep in.

Taking it off in terms of relaxing and spending time with your family or the lads or whatever. Actually switching your brain off. . . even more so now with Joe, it's very intense.

What are looking forward to most when you finish rugby?

One of the biggest stresses of rugby and one of the biggest things I always spoke about looking forward to when I finish rugby was the stresses of big games.

I think the way we deal with big games and the way we deal with our next job, be that on a Monday evening, it might be swimming, eating properly and getting to bed early. . .

Whatever the next job is, doing that to the best of your ability and you accumulate that day after day after day and that puts you in a good position to perform and that's what we do.

Paul was interviewed for his forthcoming #AllitTakes video as a Three brand ambassador

Irish Independent

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