Paul O’Connell is a former Irish Rugby Union player. O’Connell is Ireland’s third most-capped player, and the join twelfth most-capped international player in rugby union history. O’Connell captained Munster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions.
In 2006, Munster won the Heineken Cup, defeating Biarritz in Cardiff; in 2002 O’Connell, then aged 21, had started in the final defeat by Leicester. In November of 2006, he was the only northern hemisphere nominee for IRB player of the year. For Ireland, having scooped the Triple Crown in 2006, another followed in 2007, with O’Connell named Man of the Match in the 43-13 thrashing of England at Croke Park, but he was captain again for a defeat by France on the same ground.
O’Connell steered Munster to Heineken Cup Glory in 2008, but greater success would follow in 2009, when he played a key-role in Ireland’s historic Six Nations Grand Slam triumph. His performances were rewarded with the captaincy of the 2009 British & Irish Lions for their tour to South Africa – becoming the 10th Irishman to lead the elite tourists.
Upon returning from South Africa, O’Connell endured a difficult season as a post-Lions hangover affected Munster and Ireland. The lock played his part in Ireland’s draw against Australia and victory over South Africa at Croke Park, but a disappointing defeat in Paris saw Ireland lose their grip on the Grand Slam and they finished the campaign with another defeat at home to Scotland.
By the time Munster’s season came a cropper at Biarritz, their captain was no longer available as he had been struck down with a mystery groin injury. O’Connell’s prognosis was initially difficult to ascertain and although he was named in Ireland’s tour party for New Zealand and Australia, the second-row was unable to travel.
Eventually, the diagnosis was that of a groin infection, ruling the player out until December of 2010. He returned to pre-season training in August and ended the 2010/11 season by leading Munster to the Celtic League title following their victory over rivals Leinster in the Grand Final at Thomond Park. After being named in Declan Kidney’s 30-man squad for the World Cup, O’Connell showed signs of being back to his imperial best with a storming performance against the Wallabies in Auckland.
In December of that year, with Brian O’Driscoll ruled out with a shoulder problem, O’Connell was confirmed as Ireland captain for the 2012 Six Nations.
O’Connell played three of their matches in the competition, but was unfortunately ruled out of the final two after sustaining a knee-injury against France.
While Clermont Auvergne ended Munster’s Heineken Cup dream in the last four, three days later, Lions coach, Warren Gatland called O’Connell up for the tour of Australia, the third time O’Connell had been giving the honour of touring with the Lions.
O’Connell started the Lions in strong form and played the opening test against the Wallabies but was injury ruled him out of the final two tests. However he remained in Australia to help motivate the squad to a test series victory over the Wallabies.
A leading Rugby speaker, O’Connell draws upon his experience in top-flight rugby to deliver an ultimate presentation on his achievements and motivational attitude that he has had to sustain in order to be at the top of his game.
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