Sunday 17 December 2017

O'Connell: Ireland raring to go

Captain Paul O'Connell is not worried about any British and Irish Lions tour fatigue for Ireland in the RBS 6 Nations.
Captain Paul O'Connell is not worried about any British and Irish Lions tour fatigue for Ireland in the RBS 6 Nations.

Ireland will not suffer any British and Irish Lions tour fatigue, according to captain Paul O'Connell.

France have claimed the RBS 6 Nations title every season directly following a Lions tour in the professional era.

Munster's talismanic lock O'Connell does not expect any fallout this season though, paying tribute to the IRFU's careful management of their top stars once again.

"After my first Lions tour I actually broke my hand in my first game back and got another 10 weeks off, so I got a really long pre-season!" said O'Connell of his experiences after the 2005 Lions tour.

"Certainly that happened back in 1997 and maybe in 2001 but I think we're very well-managed now.

"I got a good break after the Lions tour, we've had some very tough games in the last few months, but managed to get a down week over Christmas as well.

"So I think it's something you can believe if you want to, you can look for it if you want, but the way we've been managed, most of our Lions players are feeling fairly good.

"Most of the Irish players from the Lions are feeling strong and ready for the tournament."

Ireland host Scotland on February 2 to open their Six Nations challenge before taking on Wales in Dublin just six days later.

O'Connell, who this week tied up a new two-year deal with home province Munster, expects Wales captain Sam Warburton to cause Ireland problems when the teams meet in round two.

Munster stalwart O'Connell admitted he was impressed with Cardiff Blues flanker Warburton's leadership on the summer's victorious Lions tour to Australia.

Expecting the back-rower to galvanise Wales again, O'Connell said: "I thought he was excellent: he's a quiet enough guy who leads from the front in everything he does, whether it's the gym, the analysis room, the training field, but most importantly when he's on the pitch playing, he leads from the front.

"There was a lot of experience on that Lions tour this year, there was plenty of guys to do the shouting and the barking for him, so he was able to do what he does best.

"I thought he had a great tour as a captain and it's no surprise he's won the tour too.

"It could have been tough for him with that amount of leadership experience there, but he made sure it wasn't awkward at all.

"I suppose I tend to chirp and chat a lot to the players, and he was really eager to let me off the leash to do that.

"That relaxed me, I was happy with that. I thought he was an insightful and great captain, and I'm sure he will do that job extremely well with Wales for many years now."

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