Sport International Rugby

Monday 19 March 2018

Paul O'Connell: Don't fear talk of Grand Slam


Former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell. Photo: Sportsfile
Former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell. Photo: Sportsfile

Cian Tracey​

Paul O'Connell believes that the Ireland players will embrace the talk of winning a Grand Slam, rather than being overawed by it.

However, the former Ireland captain doesn't envisage any of them taking Scotland for granted, especially not under Joe Schmidt.

Another ex-skipper, Brian O'Driscoll, insisted last weekend that the players would now be thinking about the possibility of winning the Grand Slam, and while O'Connell acknowledged that would probably be the case, he added a note of caution in that it won't be allowed to be a distraction.

"I don't think you need to pretend that there isn't a Grand Slam on, I don't think you need to do that at all," O'Connell said.

"But one of the biggest strengths of the Irish team is that they don't look too far ahead. They talk about just being next-moment focused.

"I'd say they won't be looking much beyond the first half against Scotland, not to mention looking at the England game.

"They will have a healthy amount of respect for Scotland and Gregor Townsend as a coach.

"I think Joe, having coached against him, certainly with Glasgow, and a lot of the players have played against Glasgow, they know how good they are.

"They know how good Finn Russell is as a player - how good he can be I suppose, if you let him be good.

"Listen, they chat to each other. They are well aware that there is a shot at a Grand Slam. They wouldn't be burying their heads in the sand and pretending there isn't.

"But at the same time, they won't look far beyond the first half against Scotland. That's the policy and it always has been."


Ireland were forced to train at Sport Ireland's National Sports Campus in Abbotstown yesterday afternoon due to the adverse conditions at their Carton House base.

Schmidt expects Iain Henderson and Tadhg Furlong (both hamstring) to be able to train fully this week, with a view to returning against Scotland on Saturday.

Scotland, meanwhile, have added 10 players to their extended squad, including Richie Gray, Zander Fagerson and Alex Dunbar, who have recovered from injury, as well as John Hardie who returns following a three-month ban for alleged cocaine use.'s U-20s Six Nations coverage is in association with PwC

Irish Independent

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