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Wednesday 23 August 2017

Joe Schmidt : Paul O'Connell is a man apart

Paul O'Connell
Paul O'Connell

Joe Schmidt has refused to contemplate the retirement of his captain Paul O'Connell just yet.

"There's a part of Paul that would love to play forever," he said.

The Ireland coach hailed the intellect and influence of his centurion in the 18 months they have worked together.

"The person I have come to know is exactly the person I thought he was from afar," said Schmidt.

"He has got incredible self-drive, is an incredibly intelligent man about the game.

"I think one of the best things about Paul is that he doesn't try to carry the whole weight of leadership on his own two shoulders," he added.

The ability to delegate is based on trust that others will carry the flag and Schmidt went out of his way to provide certainty over the fitness to play of Jonathan Sexton, having overcome a Grade-1 hamstring strain.

"Johnny's had a very good run into the game, and he's had no problems right through that," he said.

"I guess you'll worry about all the players, about some returning from injury and if they get a knock and get compromised.

"You can't calculate for that, but you can make sure you have the cover prepared and ready to go."

The man behind the man Ian Madigan, preferred to Ian Keatley on the bench, rates Sexton as "the in-form fly-half in the world," while highlighting Dan Biggar as the Welsh dangerman.

"There's a few other out-halves playing very well at the moment, Camille Lopez was playing very well leading into the Six Nations and Dan Biggar's really stepped up for Wales in the last two games," said Madigan.

"He's very much the heartbeat of that Welsh side and a real leader for them."

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