Saturday 21 October 2017

Historic title win could be O'Connell swansong

Nick Purewal

Paul O'Connell labelled emulating Ireland's great 1949 team by claiming back-to-back Six Nations titles as "incredible".

Ireland's captain conceded he finds himself in "a strange position", still unsure whether to retire from Test rugby after the autumn's World Cup.

The evergreen lock became Ireland's oldest try-scorer of all time at 35 years and 152 days in Edinburgh, with his first Test score for nine years - then admitted that could have been his fairytale Six Nations swansong.

Brian O'Driscoll bowed out in glory as Ireland saw off France 22-20 to claim the title in Paris last year, and O'Connell is seriously considering following suit.

"It is a strange position, but I have to be sensible as well," said O'Connell. "I genuinely haven't given an answer because I don't have an answer myself. If it does finish, it's a great way to finish. I think to go back-to-back in the Six Nations is incredible. It's a very, very difficult thing to do, particularly as Ireland is a small island with four professional teams.

"It just goes to show how good the athletes and the players we have are, and I think the way the provinces are run, and the way the strength and conditioning-wise we're right up there too."

O'Connell hailed England's howitzer showing against France as "the performance of the championship", conceding there was little enjoyment in watching that Twickenham clash on the TV.

"That was probably the performance of the championship out of them to be honest," said O'Connell. "And that will give them a lot of confidence heading into the summer internationals and the World Cup. I thought they were incredible.

"They threw caution to the wind, took a lot of quick taps and a lot of quick lineouts and I thought they were fearless."

Coach Joe Schmidt hailed his Ireland side for shrugging off the disappointment of last weekend's defeat in Wales to refocus and still swipe the title.

"The two titles are special for different reasons," said Schmidt. "This is special because of the way we had to rebound from last week. It's special because it's been so long since we've put back-to-back Six Nations together."

Sunday Indo Sport

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport