Wednesday 26 September 2018

O'Connell: Time running out so I'm savouring it

Ireland's Paul O'Connell during squad training. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Ireland's Paul O'Connell during squad training. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell is running out of road in his international career.

"Those moments are going to be less and less for me in the future. There isn't as many ahead of me. It definitely makes you cherish it more, enjoy it more," he said.

There is every reason to believe him. The second row does honesty better than most and he has been prevented by injury from doing what he does better than most over the last 20 months since playing France in the 2012 Six Nations.

O'Connell has had to deal with every player's nightmare of watching more rugby than he played: "There is nothing you can do," he said.

"You pick up an injury and the worst thing you can do is get down about it because that sets you back even further.

"You are already in a tough place. You are out of the team environment, out of the match environment, out of the pressure build-up which really sharpens your game.

"It can be difficult trying to stay sharp, so the first thing you have to do is stay positive. You just have to manage your rehab and your recovery and get back as quick as you can."

Finally, he has made it back into the green jersey, not just as a leader, but as the captain: "It is a big honour. It is something I enjoy.

"I hope I can add to it in my role as captain. I saw Jamie (Heaslip) say last year, you do wear the losses a little bit more when you're captain.

"I've captained Ireland for various times throughout my career from when I was 24 for the first time. I've done it with Munster for a long time. It is something I am familiar with."

The workhorse supreme has never seen a ruck he hasn't hit and there will also be the test of decoding the Australian line-out, along with Devin Toner, another line-out specialist.

"You always try and go after the opposition line-out. But, when you look at the line-out and the quality of operators they have, and the quality of throwers, and the experience they have, it is always difficult.

"You always set out to defend as hard as you can, get after as much ball as you can, defend the maul as hard as you can."

Ireland will have to do a lot of things harder and better if they are to undo Australia. There were holes in the defence against Samoa that simply can't appear tomorrow.

"Australia are coming off a really tough Rugby Championship. When you have a tough championship like that, you tend to find out a lot more about yourself and get a lot better."

Ireland will find out a lot about themselves too.

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