Wednesday 21 February 2018

O'Connell impressed by new coaches

Paul O'Connell enjoyed working with Ireland's new coaching team
Paul O'Connell enjoyed working with Ireland's new coaching team

Paul O'Connell has given his seal of approval to the new Ireland coaching team headed up by former Leinster boss Joe Schmidt.

O'Connell was among a group of more than 40 players to be involved in a national squad training camp with Schmidt that ended on Monday.

It was the first chance for Schmidt, his fellow New Zealander John Plumtree and Australian Les Kiss to assess resources ahead of the Guinness Series in November that features appointments with Samoa, Australia and New Zealand on successive weekends.

"Any time you work with someone new and as successful a coach as Joe Schmidt, it is always a good thing," former Ireland captain O'Connell said.

"We've only had a small number of sessions with him, but they have been really enjoyable and stimulating.

"Joe has a tried and trusted way of running his coaching staff and running the teams he coaches, and you look at the success he has had with Leinster over the last number of years and it is hard not to trust that.

"This is our first time working with John, and he has a great rugby CV, having worked in so many great places, particularly Wellington and with the Sharks (in South Africa) for the last number of years."

Schmidt twice led Leinster to Heineken Cup final triumphs, but he has now arrived on the international stage after succeeding Declan Kidney on a three-year contract that incorporates the 2015 World Cup.

His first match in charge of Ireland will be against Samoa in Dublin on November 9.

"I know the Guinness Series is only weeks away now, and those weeks tend to go very quickly when you are watching a lot of rugby and a lot of footage," Schmidt told reporters.

"There are obviously challenges to build strength and depth in a number of positions. Some of those positions are well known, but right from the back to the front of the team you want to build strength in depth.

"We found out last season that you are only a few injuries away from being made a little bit vulnerable, so we have got to try to build that depth.

"If we can build that it will give us a little bit more stability going forward, and we can be a little bit more regular with our team performance.

"Hopefully, we can gain the consistency that enables us to be really competitive, no matter who we have available to us.

"Coming from 33 games a season (with Leinster) to 10 maximum (with Ireland) and all 10 of them are effectively finals, you don't do anything other than pick your top side.

"We've tried to kind of learn a bit more about the experienced guys in this camp, with a sprinkling of younger guys, and we've also spoken to a number of younger players and given them the encouragement that we are watching them and we are hoping they continue to develop.

"You are always learning about players and about what is best for them and their preparation, and it is the same for players. They are always learning and tweaking things."

Kiss took interim charge for a successful two-Test summer tour to North America and Canada, but that followed a disappointing RBS 6 Nations campaign.

Although Ireland began the tournament by beating eventual champions Wales in Cardiff, they did not win another game, drawing against France and losing to England, Scotland and Italy.

Press Association

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