Saturday 24 March 2018

4 Ireland 32 South Africa 15, November 2006

1 Ireland 26 Australia 23, November 2014

Ireland came into the game looking to back up their impressive win over South Africa and claim an autumn clean sweep.

O'Connell had spoken about being driven by the fear of losing in the build-up and his work in the lineout and at the breakdown suggested that there was no way that he was going to end up on the losing side.

Ireland were forced to defend for their lives for large parts and O'Connell was at the heart of a heroic effort.

His ferocious tackle on Ben McCalman in the dying stages typified his powerful display.

2 Ireland 43 England 13, February 2007

An historic day at Croke Park for everyone involved, O'Connell managed to keep his emotions in check and lead Ireland to victory.

Questions had been asked of Ireland's mental strength after they were beaten at the death by France the previous week but O'Connell inspired his team-mates.

He destroyed England's second-row pairing of Louis Deacon and Danny Grewcock in the air and was fittingly given the man-of-the-match award on a special day in the history of Irish rugby.

3 Wales 23 Ireland 16, March 2015

Ireland's Grand Slam hopes may have went up in flames at the Millennium Stadium earlier this year but Paul O'Connell rolled back the years in another stellar display.

Ireland struggled to break down the Welsh defence but despite being the oldest player on the pitch, O'Connell's energy levels and work rate was a level above the majority of his team-mates. The skipper was a constant threat with ball in hand and made a couple of brilliant line breaks that reminded everyone of his importance to Ireland.

5 Ireland 54 Wales 10, February 2002

The day O'Connell was unleashed onto the international scene as a flame-haired 22-year-old and his barnstorming display was a sign of what was to come. It was perhaps fitting that O'Connell's second-row partner Mick Galwey, someone who mentored him at Munster, was the one who drove him over the whitewash for a try on his debut. O'Connell however couldn't remember scoring after shipping a knock to the head. If people hadn't heard of him before this game, they certainly had after it.

4 Ireland 32 South Africa 15, November 2006

Many people will point to this game as one of the main reasons that O'Connell was the only player from the Northern Hemisphere to be nominated for the IRB Player of the Year award.

It was the only time that he was ever nominated for the award which told you everything you needed to know about how well he played in 2006, particularly against the Springboks.

Irish Independent

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