Ireland skipper Paul O’Connell intends to cherish every remaining moment in an Irish jersey following his 19-month injury lay-off.
Having made a successful international comeback off the bench in last week’s win over Samoa, O’Connell is hoping he’ll remain injury-free as he heads further into the autumn of his remarkable career, beginning with the game against Australia at the Aviva tomorrow.
As he contemplates the future, O’Connell is delighted with the present and cites an example of his excitement as being simply in communication with some backroom people within the Irish squad, one of them the baggage master.
“You take for granted things like popping into Rala’s [Patrick O’Reilly] room in the week of the Tests and how special those moments are, and even getting the bus to the Aviva. Those moments are going to be less and less for me now. It definitely makes you enjoy and cherish it more.”
O’Connell has led from the front for club, province and country for well over a decade, but there will be no feeling of isolation as he faces into another big game as captain.
“Throughout the team we have plenty of captains, we probably have guys who have ambitions to be captain as well, even a lot of the quieter guys. I think what Joe [Schmidt] wants is guys that will lead with their actions and you see that throughout the squad in the way lads prepare.
“Sometimes when you’re in a young team and you’re captain it can be a lonely place, but here it certainly isn’t. When you look across the team you have the provincial captains and the former international captains. Then you have [Jonny] Sexton, Eoin Reddan, Sean O’Brien, Rob Kearney — real experience and real leadership as well.
“As a captain it puts you in a good place, everyone seems to know their role inside out here. You’re not worried about anyone else, you’re just worried about yourself.”
On the injury front he’s not worried, having come through almost 30 minutes of action last weekend.
“It’s great to be back, it has been a frustrating couple of years, a long time away from the Irish set-up, but it’s great to be back.
“It has been a really enjoyable time, the way we’ve prepared, the way we’ve trained, I think the squad has changed dramatically since the last time I was involved 18 months ago in terms of the depth of the squad.
“It has been a great few weeks and I am delighted to be back, delighted to be captain as well.”
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