Search icon


09th Mar 2021

“It’s the best Scottish team I’ve ever gone up against, as a coach or player”

Patrick McCarry

Paul O'Connell

“You’d love to have more time with the players… it’s a constant discussion with Andy about how much time you’re going to get.”

You get the impression that Paul O’Connell would love nothing better than to chew the ears off the current Ireland players about lineout moves, set-plays and how to target the opposition.

The former Munster and Ireland captain has so much big-game experience, and so much knowledge to impart, that he could go on all day, but he understands what it is like, as a player, to be flooded with information.

O’Connell and his fellow coaches on Andy Farrell’s staff, have to wise with their time. Surgical coaching strikes – get in, get out, let it ruminate.

Fronting up for media duty this afternoon, at the IRFU’s High Performance Centre, O’Connell was fresh from a session to help Ireland get ready for Sunday’s Six Nations test against Scotland. He is getting praised for Ireland’s improved set-piece, but is quick to point out how Ireland have been penalised at a couple of lineouts.

O’Connell does feel that the Irish forwards have done very well, though, considering Peter O’Mahony has played only 13 minutes this championship.

“After 15 minutes,” he says, “we lost one of the best lineout jumpers in the Six Nations, so it’s been a real challenge around every single corner.

“But there’s no doubt, Scotland are an excellent side. I think any team that’s coached by Gregor Townsend attacks really well. Going back to his Glasgow (coaching) days, they always had an incredibly physical edge.”

Ireland forwards coach Paul O’Connell watches his players during the warm-up prior to the Six Nations match against France at the Aviva Stadium. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Ireland beat the Scots at Murrayfield in their last outing at the ground, in 2019, but fell to them in a Six Nations opener in 2017. Paul O’Connell was part of an Ireland side that delivered a 40-10 beating on the way to the Six Nations title in 2015.

“It’s the best Scottish team I’ve ever gone up against, as a coach as or a player. They’re very well coached, they’re very physical, and they’ve got some real X-factor players as well – Finn Russell, to name one, and Stuart Hogg, to name another.

“They’re in a very, very good place, and we’re aware of the challenge. I think we’ve taken confidence from some of the things we’ve done in the last three games. We’ve probably been unlucky, in some regards, and we haven’t helped ourselves in other regards… we’ve given sides a leg-up when we’ve played against them. That’s something we can’t do, going forward.”

As for the injury update from Ireland camp, Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier is undergoing his Return To Play protocols while ‘everyone else has trained and is available for selection’.

We have heard similar from the Ireland coaches, in previous weeks of the championship, only for fitness issues to rear their head around selection day. Given their rough start to the Six Nations, this group could do with a break or two.


WATCH: Liverpool BOTTLED the title race 🤬 | Who will win the Premier League?