'It's tough when it's your own - O'Callaghan
Former Ireland international Donncha O'Callaghan says he is looking to earn the respect of the opposition when he steps out opposite Connacht at the Sportsground tomorrow.
The 38-year-old veteran lock has been a captain on a Lions tour, played 94 times for his country and made 268 appearances for Munster but now he is captain of Worcester Warriors in the English Premiership. The two-time Heineken Cup winner signed a one-year contract extension at Sixways earlier this season, having originally joined from Munster in September 2015.
And despite his vast experience the Cork native says stepping out opposite Irish opponents is still the biggest challenge in the game.
"They are the ones that I always find the toughest. I don't mind playing against any of the English teams and knocking lumps out of them but when you are looking over and it's one of your own across the way I find it kind of tough," said O'Callaghan.
"It's about respect. The big one for me was that I never knew the value of Simon Easterby until I played against him. I remember when you were playing with him you were wondering what Simon's gets up to, but when you were playing against him he was involved in everything and he earned respect."
Worcester have made a dreadful start to their Premiership campaign where they lost all six games. But in Europe they kicked off Pool 5 in the Challenge Cup with a bonus-point win over Brive and O'Callaghan believes his team can go far in the competition. "It was really weird for me but Europe was seen in a different light over here last year. Thankfully Gary Gold doesn't see it that way. He sees it as a competition to go out and do our best in," he said. "Last year was a rotation and I found that so alien that Europe wasn't the pinnacle. Thankfully it's back to being up there."
Worcester will lose their director of rugby Gold at the end of this season, where he will head to USA to coach the national side there. But O'Callaghan says the younger players are being given a chance and that's vital for the team, and the players trying to break through.
"Gary is giving the younger guys a go and it's about trying to make sure they know that you don't get a whole lot of opportunities like that," said O'Callaghan. "There aren't a whole lot of teams in the Premiership that will take guys as young as we are going to go this season, and throw them in."