Paul O'Connell during an open training session at Kingspan Stadium, Ravenhill Park, Belfast as Ireland prepare for battle against Wales.
Ireland’s Paul O’Connell will earn his 100th international cap when he leads Ireland out against Wales in the RBS Six Nations on Saturday.
Ireland’s iconic captain spoke to In Touch magazine about becoming a centurion and how as his career draws to a close the games mean much more to him.
“I don’t know if it is nerves or even a bit of stress,” he said. “When you are coming towards the end you appreciate that there won’t be many more of them. You want them all to be good days.
“You want to have that feeling in the dressing room after you win. It means more now I think.”
The second row said that when he started his career 13 years ago, he maybe didn’t fully appreciate the opportunity he was given.
“Now that I am older, I realise that it might have come a little easy to me when I was 22,” O’Connell explained.
“There were a couple of injuries at Munster and I got in. There were a couple of injuries at Ireland too and I got picked. It all happened really quickly.”
The player, who has also captained the British and Irish Lions in a hugely successful career, feels he understands now the work put in by the elder statesmen of the time like Anthony Foley and Peter Clohessy to integrate new players.
“Now, the more I play, the more I realise how much goes into it and how much the leaders and senior players on the team put into it, to make it easier for a younger lad like me at the time.”
Paul O'Connell during Ireland's last Six Nations game - against England in the Aviva Stadium.
The 100th cap comes at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff - a happy hunting ground for O’Connell, who has won two Heineken Cups and a Grand Slam there.
The Limerick man agrees the place holds great memories for him, but is also an intimidating venue for teams coming to face Wales.
“I have enjoyed playing there for Munster,” he said. “(But) it is a very tough place to play international rugby.
“The crowd are very vociferous, they are passionate, they are loud. The Welsh players are phenomenally motivated by playing there. While it is an incredible experience, it is a tough experience too.”
Check out O’Connell’s full interview in In Touch magazine.