Thursday 14 December 2017

O'Connell hails French lesson

Paul O'Connell. Photo: Getty Images
Paul O'Connell. Photo: Getty Images

John Fallon

Munster captain Paul O'Connell has recalled a lesson he learned as a young player from Anthony Foley in how to beat the French -- get them on the deck and don't give them the chance to offload.

He said he discovered a lot about the Munster way of playing when he was brought to France as a youngster to be ingrained in their way of doing things.

O'Connell said that French teams have a different style of play -- and that Munster will need to adapt for their latest joust with Castres in their Heineken Cup clash tomorrow.

"When they keep the ball off the ground and they're offloading, they're very hard to defend (against) and when they get momentum into their game, it can be a really tough 80 minutes," O'Connell said.

"I can remember Anthony Foley talking about getting them on the deck, making sure that you don't let them offload and don't let them play the ball out of the tackle, because that's when they get their confidence up. You have to focus on getting them on the ground, making them ruck and not letting them play their game."

O'Connell added: "One of my first games involved with Munster was -- I think maybe a year or two before I was contracted -- when I was brought to a game over in Castres when we came from behind to win.

"We conceded a try down the short side early on in the game and I think Jason Holland was Man of the Match and Dominic Crotty had a phenomenal game as well, and we came back and won in the dying minutes.

"I remember a small group of fans were there at the game and it was a real eye-opener about what Munster rugby was about, the never-give-up attitude. I remember how intimidating it was at the start of the game and it probably got to Munster a little bit, but they rallied round and finished well."

O'Connell said he appreciates that the recession may make it difficult for Munster fans to travel to every game, but he's confident there will be a big contingent in Stade Ernest-Wallon tomorrow for the encounter.

"I'd still be confident there'll be a core group there and hopefully a few ex-pats will make their way down and make themselves heard, they always do. That'll be important for us," he said.

O'Connell said that the decision by Castres to switch the game to Toulouse was not an issue for them.

"For us it's irrelevant, we can't get bogged down with things like that, we've just got to focus, we're playing them away from home in France and we've got to focus on all the things that go with that, like momentum, and ignore what's going on in the background with grounds and that," he said.

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