Andy Farrell relishing Paul O'Connell link-up: 'His passion for the game is second to none'

The Munster, Ireland and Lions legend will have to hit the ground running as Ireland forwards coach
Andy Farrell relishing Paul O'Connell link-up: 'His passion for the game is second to none'

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

Andy Farrell believes the time is right for Paul O'Connell to have made the leap onto the Ireland management team.

The former Munster, Ireland and Lions captain had dipped a few toes in the coaching waters before now with short stints at Stade Francais and with the Ireland U20s but he appeared to be uncertain as to whether life in a tracksuit was for him.

That changed earlier this month with his announcement as forwards coach under Farrell. It leaves him with little time to get his feet under the table what with Ireland's first Six Nations game, away to Wales, next Sunday week.

“First of all, he has been brought in to add, to be himself, and the obvious thing would be that Paul is going to add to any environment,” said Farrell. 

“Myself and Paul have a good rugby relationship for many years now. He is someone who I keep in touch with on a regular occasion.

“We have had him in camp a couple of times and I have always been interested in what his thoughts are and what his next steps are etc. I suppose conversations just keep on [happening] over a period of time and, yeah, the timing is right for now for Paul to come into camp and get ready for this Six Nations.”

O'Connell may be a rookie in coaching terms but great things are expected of a man who was a world-class player and a leader of rare proportions up to the moment his career ended with injury against Argentina at the 2015 World Cup.

He takes control of an Ireland pack with a player of his own totemic status but one with no shortage of very, very good operators across all three lines. Addressing a lineout that has had too many glitches the last year may be top of his agenda.

Jonathan Sexton knows O'Connell better than most. The Ireland captain faced him plenty of times at provincial, spent seven years alongside him in Ireland dressing-rooms and toured Australia as part of the same British and Irish Lions party in 2013.

It will be tonight before the squad has congregated at its Dublin base and tomorrow before O'Connell can begin his work with the players at his disposal but Sexton has already had some conversations with the new coach in recent weeks.

“I obviously know what an impact Paul has on teams by playing under him when he was captain of Ireland and for [his] 10 or 15 years with Ireland and Munster, the impact he had on their environments. He's no different here.

“He's a brilliant leader, he's a brilliant person and his passion for the game is second to none and that will rub off on us. I'm really looking forward to working with him and that's all I can say for now.”

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