Monday 23 October 2017

14 seasons, 48 home matches, 35 home wins, four tries, three Six Nations titles - One Paul O'Connell

Paul O’Connell is ready to jump into action against Wales today, when he plays his last game for Ireland on home soil
Paul O’Connell is ready to jump into action against Wales today, when he plays his last game for Ireland on home soil
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell has admitted that Joe Schmidt's ­final 31-man World Cup squad selection has been a topic of discussion in the dressing-room this week, but he wants those in need of a performance to put their personal concerns to one side.

The 35-year-old will lead his side on home soil for the final time in an illustrious career this afternoon against Wales and is one of a host of Six Nations performers who are almost certain of being selected in the final squad.

However, for the likes of Luke Fitzgerald, Keith Earls, Dave Kearney and Nathan White, today is a major opportunity to ensure their place on the panel for the next month's tournament.

After today's game, Schmidt and his coaching staff will meet to ­discuss the 31 names who will be submitted to the World Cup ­organisers on ­Monday, with the coach set to confirm his squad publicly on Tuesday.

13 February 2011; Paul O'Connell, Ireland, celebrates after Tomas O'Leary scored Ireland's second try. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland v France, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
13 February 2011; Paul O'Connell, Ireland, celebrates after Tomas O'Leary scored Ireland's second try. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland v France, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
15 September 2009; Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell, along with other team-members, get a fit of giggles while being interviewed by MC Shane O'Donoghue at the launch of the new Ireland PUMA rugby kit. The Ireland rugby squad will wear the new PUMA Ireland jersey for the first time in their Autumn International against Australia on 15th November in Croke Park. Radisson SAS St Helen's Hotel, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
27 February 2010; Paul O'Connell, Ireland, attempts to get to grips with the England maul. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, England v Ireland, Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London, England. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
21 March 2009; Ireland's Paul O'Connell, right, and Donncha O'Callaghan celebrate with the RBS Six Nations Championship trophy and Triple Crown. RBS Six Nations Championship, Wales v Ireland, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
7 February 2009; Paul O'Connell, Ireland, takes the ball in the lineout against Imanol Harinordoquy, France. 2009 RBS Six Nations Championship, Ireland v France, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE
26 September 2007; Ireland's Paul O'Connell speaking at a press conference. Ireland Rugby Press Conference, 2007 Rugby World Cup, Sofitel Bordeaux Aquitania, Bordeaux, France. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
24 February 2007; Ireland's Paul O'Connell wins possession in the lineout against England. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland v England, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture Credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
23 February 2005; Paul O'Connell is snowballed by team-mate Frank Sheahan after Ireland rugby squad training. Terenure Rugby Club, Dublin. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
6 March 2004; Ireland players, from left, Kevin Maggs, Anthony Foley, Keith Gleeson, Simon Easterby, Paul O'Connell and Malcolm O'Kelly celebrate in the dressing room after victory over England. RBS 6 Nations Championship 2003-2004, England v Ireland, Twickenham, England. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
6 August 2003; Ireland's Paul O'Connell. Ireland Rugby Squad Training. Dubarry Park, Athlone, Co. Westmeath. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
3 February 2002; Ireland's Paul O'Connell makes his way onto the pitch prior to kick off. Ireland v Wales, Six Nations Championships, Landsdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
6 April 2002; A dejected Paul O'Connell, Ireland, after defeat to France. Lloyds Six Nations Championship, France v Ireland, Stade de France, St Denis, Paris, France. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
3 February 2002; The Ireland team. Ireland v Wales, Six Nations Championships, Landsdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
15 January 2002; Paul O'Connell, Ireland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
3 February 2002; Ireland's Paul O'Connell celebrates with team-mate Peter Stringer after scoring his try against Wales. Ireland v Wales, Six Nations Championships, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
1 March 2015; Paul O'Connell, Ireland, blocks the kick from Ben Youngs, England. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland v England. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
14 February 2015; Ireland's Paul O'Connell and his son Paddy leave the pitch after the game. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland v France. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
22 November 2014; Paul O'Connell, Ireland, wins a ball from Luke Jones, Australia. Guinness Series, Ireland v Australia. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
28 January 2015; In attendance at the launch of the RBS Six Nations Championship Launch 2015 is Ireland's Paul O'Connell. RBS Six Nations Championship Launch 2015, The Hurlingham Club, Ranelagh Gardens, London, England. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
20 November 2014; Ireland's Paul O'Connell during squad training ahead of their side's Guinness Series match against Australia on Saturday. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
14 June 2014; Paul O'Connell, Ireland. Summer Tour 2014, Second Test, Argentina v Ireland. Estadio Jos? Fierro, San Miguel de Tucum?n, Tucum?n, Argentina. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
3 June 2014; Ireland's Paul O'Connell during squad training ahead of their opening Summer Tour 2014 test game against Argentina on Saturday. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, Hurling Club, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
15 March 2014; Paul O'Connell, left, and Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland, celebrate with the trophy. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship 2014, France v Ireland. Stade De France, Saint Denis, Paris, France. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
15 March 2014; Ireland captain Paul O'Connell raises the RBS Six Nations Championship trophy. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship 2014, France v Ireland, Stade De France, Saint Denis, Paris, France. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
15 March 2014; Ireland captain Paul O'Connell celebrates winning the 2014 RBS six nations championship after beating France. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship 2014, France v Ireland, Stade De France, Saint Denis, Paris, France. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
21 February 2014; Ireland's Paul O'Connell makes his way through the players' tunnel before the captain's run ahead of their RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship 2014 match against England on Saturday. Ireland Rugby Squad Captain's Run, Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London, England. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
20 February 2014; Ireland's Paul O'Connell is carried by team-mate Devin Toner during a warm-up drill at squad training ahead of their RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship match against England on Saturday. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
25 February 2012; Paul O'Connell, Ireland, supported by Ronan O'Gara, right, is tackled by Antonio Pavanello, left, and Leonardo Ghiraldini, Italy. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland v Italy, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
9 November 2013; Paul O'Connell, Ireland. Guinness Series International, Ireland v Samoa, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
5 February 2012; Paul O'Connell, Ireland. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland v Wales, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
9 February 2012; Ireland captain Paul O'Connell during squad training ahead of their side's RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship game against France on Saturday. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
17 September 2011; Paul O'Connell, Ireland, races clear of Dan Vickerman, Australia. 2011 Rugby World Cup, Pool C, Australia v Ireland, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
17 September 2011; Will Genia, Australia, is tackled by Ireland players Stephen Ferris, Paul O'Connell and Eoin Reddan. 2011 Rugby World Cup, Pool C, Australia v Ireland, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
4 September 2011; Ireland's Paul O'Connell in conversation with head coach Declan Kidney welcome ceremony ahead of their Pool C opening game against the USA on the 11th of September. Ireland Rugby Squad Welcome Ceremony - 2011 Rugby World Cup, Queenstown, New Zealand. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
27 January 2009; Ireland's Paul O'Connell at the team press conference. The Strand Hotel, Limerick. Picture credit: Kieran Clancy / SPORTSFILE
14 February 2015; Paul O'Connell, Ireland, in action against Damien Chouly, France. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland v France. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
22 November 2014; Paul O'Connell, Ireland. Guinness Series, Ireland v Australia. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
28 January 2015; In attendance at the launch of the RBS Six Nations Championship Launch 2015 is Ireland's Paul O'Connell. RBS Six Nations Championship Launch 2015, The Hurlingham Club, Ranelagh Gardens, London, England. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
22 November 2014; Paul O'Connell, Ireland, in action against Jake Schatz, Australia. Guinness Series, Ireland v Australia. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
2 June 2014; Ireland captain Paul O'Connell relaxes at the team hotel in Buenos Aires following a press conference ahead of their opening Summer Tour 2014 test game against Argentina on Saturday. Ireland Rugby Press Conference, Emperador Hotel, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
22 September 2014; Canterbury and the IRFU have today unveiled the new Ireland home and alternate playing kits will be worn for the first time during the Guinness Series when Ireland take on South Africa, Georiga and Australia. Pictured at the launch is Ireland's Paul O'Connell. Canterbury Ireland Jersey launch media activity, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
22 September 2014; Canterbury and the IRFU have today unveiled the new Ireland home and alternate playing kits will be worn for the first time during the Guinness Series when Ireland take on South Africa, Georiga and Australia. Pictured at the launch is Ireland's Paul O'Connell. Canterbury Ireland Jersey launch media activity, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
31 January 2014; Ireland captain Paul o'Connell after a press conference ahead of their RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship match against Scotland on Sunday. Ireland Rugby Press Conference, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
15 March 2014; Paul O'Connell, Ireland. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship 2014, France v Ireland, Stade De France, Saint Denis, Paris, France. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
8 February 2014; Paul O'Connell, Ireland. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland v Wales, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2013; Ireland's Paul O'Connell during squad training. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
24 November 2013; Paul O'Connell, Ireland. Guinness Series International, Ireland v New Zealand, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
1 June 2013; Paul O'Connell, British & Irish Lions. British & Irish Lions Tour 2013, Barbarians v British & Irish Lions, Hong Kong Stadium, So Kon Poh, Hong Kong, China. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
22 June 2013; Paul O'Connell, British & Irish Lions. British & Irish Lions Tour 2013, 1st Test, Australia v British & Irish Lions, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
3 February 2002; Ireland's Paul O'Connell celebrates with team-mate Peter Stringer after scoring his try against Wales. Ireland v Wales, Six Nations Championships, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

It makes for high stakes against a near full-strength Wales side and O'Connell is urging his team-mates to put the ramifications of their performance to one side and focus on improving as a unit.

"There's been a little bit of chat amongst the lads, but I think guys are just trying to put it to the back of their mind," he said after leading yesterday's Captain's Run.

"There's no value in anyone getting too bogged down in it or worrying about it. We're big on preparation, you prepare as well as you can, that hopefully helps you play as well as you can, and that helps selection.

"There are certainly things we'd like to do a little bit better from the Scottish game.

"One of our big things is trying to improve from championship to championship and from game to game and we probably took a step back in some of the things we did in the Scottish game. We'll be trying to improve on that."

Despite the attention that is sure to come his way at full-time as the Dublin crowd bids farewell, O'Connell is determined not to let the occasion of his final home game for Ireland fog his own mind.

His time as an international will come to an end when the World Cup finishes and, although he is likely to return to the Aviva Stadium with Toulon in December, this is a chance for Ireland fans to say goodbye.

However, the attention that comes with his impending international retirement is not sitting comfortably on the skipper's broad shoulders.

"They are embarrassing," he said of the series of farewells during his final months as a player in Ireland.

"I mean, they're nice, I really enjoyed my last game in Thomond Park against the Ospreys - I had it to myself almost.

"Most players want to focus on the game and get on with the game, particularly with the way we play. There's an awful lot of things to think about; there's awful lot of things we've got to do to play well, to fit into the system.

"You're not too bothered by any of the outside distractions."

Irish Independent

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