Sunday 25 March 2018

O'Connell to join exclusive club

Paul O’Connell makes a point to the Irish players during yesterday’s training session at Carton Housechalked
Paul O’Connell makes a point to the Irish players during yesterday’s training session at Carton Housechalked

Daragh Small

Munster legend Paul O'Connell will become only the fourth player to chalk up a century of Test caps for Ireland when he leads the side out in Cardiff tomorrow.

He will become the third Munster player to achieve 100 caps, following in the footsteps of John Hayes and Ronan O'Gara. Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland's record holder with 133 caps, is the only other to reach the milestone.

Five of the six most capped Irish players are from Munster. O'Gara chalked up 128, Hayes - the first to reach a century, won 105 - while Peter Stringer won 98 caps and Donncha O'Callaghan 94.

The Six Nations campaign has gone to plan so far with three wins from three and another victory in the Millennium Stadium would set Ireland up for a Grand Slam decider against Scotland at Murrayfield next week.

O'Connell crowned his debut when he scored a try in the 54-10 victory over Wales at Lansdowne Road on February 3, 2002.

Since then he has scored five more tries, the last of which came in the 2006-07 season. Wouldn't it be a great way to mark his 100th if he was to grab another?

The Young Munster man has also made 169 appearances for his province, scoring 18 tries as well as captaining the Lions on their tour to South Africa in 2009 - he also went on tours to New Zealand and Australia, playing seven Tests.

A native of Limerick, he went to school in Ardscoil Ris and got his first international call-up to the schools' side in the 1997/98 season.

And while he has not confirmed whether he will retire after the World Cup or at the end of next season, he is determined to finish on a high.

"I don't know if it is nerves or even a bit of stress," he said. "When you are coming towards the end you appreciate that there won't be many more of them.

"You want them all to be good days. You want to have that feeling in the dressing-room after you win. It means more now I think."

The lock has played the entire 80 minutes in each of the three wins over Italy, France and England.

The 34-year also played the full 80 minutes in the victories over Australia and South Africa in the November internationals.

Irish Independent

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