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‘Relaxed’ O’Connell Ready For Title Defence

‘Relaxed’ O’Connell Ready For Title Defence

Munster captain Paul O’Connell relayed the feeling in the Heineken Cup holders’ camp as they look forward to their Pool 1 opener against French outfit Montauban on Friday night.

To listen to an interview with Paul O’Connell on Munster’s Heineken Cup title defence, click here.

Thomond Park Stadium is sure to be thronged on Friday as big night European rugby returns to Limerick for the first time since Munster’s impressive 19-3 win over London Wasps last January.

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Much has changed since then, to the ground itself and the province’s power-packed squad.

A second Heineken Cup in the bag, new faces in the coaching ticket and a new head coach in Tony McGahan, the Australian who served under Declan Kidney since arriving in 2006.

McGahan, nicknamed ‘Dumper’ because of his tackling technique during his playing days, has already announced publicly that Munster will ‘be going for all five points’ against Montauban this weekend.

His captain, Paul O’Connell, is anticipating a big performance from the defending champions as they look to make an early mark on the pool.

“There is a lot of experience in our squad now and we always thrive on the big occasions. It is very natural for us to get psyched up for big games like this one,” O’Connell explained, after training in UL on Tuesday.

“When you are very cool and confident about doing your job it is easier to be consistent. We are very relaxed going into games now and that is good.”

Munster, for certain, will not be resting on their laurels. As has been the plan through the province’s unbeaten start to the Magners League, McGahan has his squad taking it one game at a time.

“What we have done is not refer back to last season. All we can do is concentrate on making ourselves better and lift our standards from last year,” he said.

“We had a winning season in 2007/08. That’s not to say it’ll be good enough for this season.

“The game is now at least 10 percent quicker. If you don’t raise your standards you’re not going to get anywhere.”

O’Connell and his team-mates were not happy with their overall display in last week’s 25-17 league win over Glasgow, in what was the first senior game to take place at the redeveloped Thomond Park.

“We didn’t play fabulously well last week against Glasgow. We had two tough weeks against Cardiff and Leinster and there’s always a come-down after that.

“Against Glasgow, we did some very good stuff and some of the worst stuff we have done this year but it was good to win and keep our record intact.”

Munster’s lineout has been arguably the one cause for concern since the competitive season began. New forwards coach Laurie Fisher will have to tidy things up there and as O’Connell points out, Montauban have a very proficient lineout themselves.

“Montauban are a very good side, their lineout work is very good and they have a big, mobile pack. They have (Scottish international) Scott Murray who could be at two or four in the lineout.

“They have some very good players…(Fijian international) Vilimoni Delasau is an exceptional player. There are only a few rugby players in the world who can win a match on their own and he is one of those.”

O’Connell was quick to counter when asked about the performance of the Munster lineout against Glasgow.

“We lost the first two balls but after that we won all our throws and Dougie’s try was scored off a lineout,” the 28-year-old said.

“We used to have to work so hard for our tries, there were a lot of phases and a lot of penalties and putting teams under pressure before they happened.

“Now maybe we don’t have to work so hard. Look at the try we scored off first phase at the weekend, a lovely ball from Rua (Tipoki) to Keith (Earls) and Keith putting Dougie in to the corner.

“To win a lineout and drop it down to the scrum half and jog back to halfway with seven points in the bag, that’s great. It’s something we’ve often had sporadically but not as often as we’re getting now and it’s great.”

Commenting on his side’s approach to their European opener, he explained: “We’ll be trying to get the job done, to be effective in everything we do and to be psyched up and ready for these big games.

“We want to be very process driven and get the job done, trying to be effective in everything we do, performing our roles more aggressively and I think we did that very well against Leinster.

“Against the Dragons, when we went ahead, we kept going ahead and going ahead because each guy is focused on each moment rather than the game as a whole.”