From the red of Munster to the green of Ireland. Paul O’Connell certainly had a spring in his step as he joined up with the Irish squad on Monday for a training camp in Limerick. A home Heineken Cup quarter-final secured, next on the big lock’s list is an elusive Six Nations title.
There was growing support for Paul O’Connell to be named as Ireland’s captain for the 2009 RBS 6 Nations Championship but the man himself said he is happy that Brian O’Driscoll has agreed to continue in the role.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, he insisted: “I didn’t expect to be captain. I will be doing what I have been doing for Ireland for the past few seasons.
“The role I do now is something I enjoy and I don’t see anything less or anything more in being captain. The captaincy for me is a non-issue.”
Asked if he was disappointed not to be named captain, the Munster skipper said: “To captain Ireland is a massive honour but it is not something that you set out as a goal. Brian’s experience is very important and not being captain does not bother me in the slightest.
“Captaincy is something that comes your way and Brian is going to captain a group that has experienced and young players coming through.”
O’Connell agreed that Munster had come good in the last few weeks, thanks to bonus point wins over Sale Sharks and Montauban, and that ‘hopefully we can carry that through to the Irish side and put a lot of guys in the frame for Lions selection.’
Asked if the Munster intensity can be brought to the Irish team, O’Connell said: “We always aim to do that. But the opposition at international level is a big step up from interprovincial level.
“We have also tried to bring the same intensity to the internationals but the opposition is much tougher.
“Looking at the Six Nations, we have to take it one game at a time which is something we might not have always done in the past.
“We would be mad to look beyond the French game at present and if we can get off to a good start, anything can happen.
“But it is all about getting off to a good start and staying focused on this first game. We must bring the intensity we brought to the Argentina game in our last international.
“We will do our utmost to win the Grand Slam. We have gone close a few times.
“We would love to think that this is our time but we must take it one game at a time and it is all about getting off to a good start against France.”
Switching into international mode is something which comes relatively easy to O’Connell, who should chalk up his 60th Irish cap during the championship.
“I like coming into camp with the Irish squad. I like meeting up with new people and the hotel living which affords us something of a break.
“If picked, a player will be involved in five internationals and then it will be back to Munster for me. Munster are not sitting waiting for us to come back and they are going to Lanzarote for a week.”
Meanwhile, Ulster hooker and captain Rory Best is also happy to see O’Driscoll remain as Irish captain.
“Brian leads by example on the pitch. He sets the standards and expects the others to come up to his standard,” Best said.
“He gives it everything and he has a great senior player structrure around him. He has one of the easier jobs as he has so many other captains in the side with him.”