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'I'm not obsessed with it' | O...
Rugby

'I'm not obsessed with it' | O'Connell on Irish RWC expectations

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin

14:27 14 Sep 2021

Former Ireland captain Paul O'Connell believes his experience as a former player will help to influence the current crop to control their habits and improve their quality as he reflects on his first few years in coaching. O'Connell understands his past experiences will help guide players today as they learn their craft.

O'Connell, 41, spoke on Tuesday's OTB AM to promote Aldi's new 'Home' cookbook, and all proceeds will be donated to Barnardos. The book features 72 family-friendly recipes developed by IRFU High-Performance Chef Maurice McGeehan.

Coaching Career

The Irish rugby legend spoke in-depth about his coaching career so far after taking the role of the new forwards coach in the Ireland set-up in January 2021. O'Connell believes his past as a former player allows him to understand how the new era can adapt to new playing styles.

"I think I understand what a player is going through," claimed O'Connell. "I think I understand how I can get a player to do things."

As with O'Connell's book, he attempts to stamp out bad habits, or as he likes to call it - "controlling the controllable."

"In rugby, you're close to exhaustion all the time. You have all these habits throughout your life. You can't go through a training drill once and expect to change the habits of a lifetime. Especially under pressure with 50,000 people watching you, and you're tired from exhaustion."

The former British and Irish Lions captain knows all too well about a player's struggles and believes he knows how to influence the new crop emerging.

"That empathy towards players and what they're going through is something I expect because I had that."

O'Connell, who started his coaching career as an advisor to the Munster Academy, reflected on his time in France at Stade Francais. He spent one full season as the new forwards coach at the French club.

"I look back on it with a bit of disappointment, but we disagreed on how we were going about things. I'd signed for one year, Mike (Prendergast) onto Racing, and ultimately I decided to leave."

Andy Farrell 19 February 2020; Former Ireland captain Paul O'Connell in conversation with James Ryan, left, during Ireland Rugby squad training at IRFU High Performance Centre at the Sport Ireland Campus in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

World Cup Expectations

The former Ireland under-20s assistant coach reflected on the high expectations put on the senior squad to perform on the World Cup stage. While the team has never reached further than the competition's quarter-final, O'Connell doesn't believe in overthinking the country's achievements. He admits he doesn't get bogged down on others' expectations.

"I don't think we can afford to think like that. Other people might be obsessed with it, but I'm certainly not."

The Munster man understands the need to develop players for future achievements, but consistent winning is still a priority.

"We need to develop players for the future, but also we want to keep winning."

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