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O'Connell is Mana for all seasons


Paul O'Connell

Paul O'Connell


Paul O'Connell

'Mana' is defined as a supernatural force in a person, place or object.

The object of Joe Schmidt's love of language was Paul O'Connell when the coach used this ancient Maori word to describe his captain after a typically inspirational impact.

"Look, there's not a lot I can add to the Paul O'Connell story. He has an incredible amount of respect.

"A word that sums him up is that he's just got 'Mana,'" said Schmidt.

"He is a guy who does not know how to give up. He prides himself on being as well prepared as he can be and he has massive respect within the group because of how he delivers.

"When he's done, he delivers again."

Thirty-four years young O'Connell is not the biggest second row in the world, not the strongest, not the fastest, not the most athletic, certainly not the youngest. It is these facts that make his greatness grow because there is just something invisible inside the man that is not of this world.

"Not many guys have the mental capacity that Paul O'Connell has. There are a lot of guys who physically get into good shape, but he's one of the most mentally tough players I've been involved with.

"Again, I'm sure other people have managed to do it, it's just for us he's probably a line in the sand. He just makes sure he delivers every time.

"I'm not sure myself how he does it because I think I'd be crumpled and that would be at the start of the game.

"He just keeps going right through the game, that's why he has so much respect and that's why he's a genuine captain who leads by example."

This all came on the back of O'Connell's unspoken irritation that the Ireland set-piece did not live up to the promise the players made to each other.

Perhaps, Schmidt and forwards coach Simon Easterby would be well-advised to allow their captain to carry out the video review today.

There are similarities between Schmidt and O'Connell in that they have a wonderful gift of making those around them believe.

They take others with them.

"It's probably a benchmark result for us. We are performance driven and I think our performance at times was superhuman," added Schmidt.

"The amount of times guys had to get up and make repeated tackles against such big strong carriers.

"I think if you look back four weeks ago, South Africa were superb against the All Blacks.

"Past performance guarantees nothing in the future and I think all test players understand that.


"The only thing that guarantees performance is the best preparation you can put yourself through and then, hopefully, that performance will be good enough to get the result."

The fact that Ireland did get what they wanted so readily on the scoreboard (29-15) would baffle many a statistician.

Ireland kicked more from hand (27-v-18), passed less times (83 v 133), ran fewer times (72 v 118) and made fewer metres (232 v 355) with the ball.

They had less possession (43% v 57%), far less territory (38% v 62%), made less clean breaks (4 v 5), beat less defenders (13 v 26) and executed no offloads to South Africa's seven.

Ireland made nearly double the amount of tackles (143 v 79), missed exactly double the number (26 v 13) and were less efficient at the ruck, where SA cleaned out for a better percentage return (91% v 95%).

The set-piece was completely dominated by The Springboks.

They got a 100% return from their own feed into the scrum against Ireland's 75% and easily claimed all their lineout ball, while taking away four of Ireland's 17.

None of this takes into account the scrums and lineouts they spoiled by forcing Ireland into working off of unusable ball.

They even conceded less penalties (10 v 11).

So where did Ireland win this game? They won it through the disruption of the maul and the precise tactical kicking of Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton.

There was also the key decision by referee Romain Poite to yellow card Adriaan Strauss in the 66th minute just as South Africa were beginning to sway the battle for momentum.

And then there are the immeasurables.

The Irish had a plan, one they really believed in, and they stuck to it, come hell or high water. They went after the vaunted visitors physically, double-teaming in the tackle and staying connected from minutes one to 80.

Most importantly, they played the conditions better. Simple as that.

The kicking games of half-backs Sexton and Murray turned the losers inside-out.

Where to from here? Schmidt will have Georgia on his mind.

The temptation must be to withdraw beaten up bodies for Australia on Saturday week.

"There are some guys who won't play next week because I don't think they're physically capable of getting bashed like they did.

"So with the tight turnaround from Georgia to Australia, there'll be a few changes but hopefully some continuity as well."