Having seen his Lions Test series cut short by a fractured arm, Munster’s Paul O’Connell is eager to don the green jersey again under new Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and get back to the fitness and playing levels he was at during the summer’s Lions tour.
Speaking at the Ireland squad’s two-day training camp at Carton House, Paul O’Connell said: “I was delighted to get back (playing) last season, delighted to get on the (Lions) tour. I really enjoyed the tour but was disappointed in the way it finished but that is life and that is the same now again.
“It wasn’t the worst injury to happen. There is a lot of things you can do, train, so I am looking forward to getting back and getting a full season under my belt.
“Getting back to the levels of fitness I had in the Lions and trying to maintain that for a full season and pushing on again. It is exciting times with Munster and exciting times with Ireland.”
While the second row has be in opposition to Joe Schmidt before in provincial games against Leinster, this week was the first time he has worked with him.
But despite having just two days under the direction of the new Schmidt-lead coaching staff, O’Connell can already see the attention to detail of the New Zealander.
“Anytime you work with someone new and as successful as Joe Schmidt it is always a good thing for you,” admitted the Limerick man.
“We have only had a small number of sessions with him but they have been really enjoyable, really stimulating and I have really enjoyed it and I hope it continues in that vein.
“From the Munster lads’ point of view, it’s been a great few days. It’s not a whole lot different to what the experience was before.
“It seems to be very big on detail, on clarity and having your work done before you go out on the pitch and knowing it and being able to react quickly on the pitch. It’s been a very good few days.
“You could see a lot of stuff the Leinster lads would have told us about the way Joe goes about his business, you could see it over the last few days.
“It is a little different to some of the things we have experienced before but very enjoyable. A lot of the guys really enjoyed the last few days and guys will be looking forward to coming into camp for the GUINNESS Series in November.”
O’Connell added that there is a freshness at the start of every season and the upcoming November internationals which pit Ireland against Samoa, New Zealand and Australia are no different.
With a limited amount of time to work with the Ireland coaching staff – new forwards coach John Plumtree came on board at the start of the month – the challenge will be to learn quickly in order to get the performances on the pitch.
“It is pretty much a clean slate there. Certain things that Joe is looking for in games, certain things that Les (Kiss) is looking for in games and the guys are eager to try and deliver that over the next few weeks, so they can put themselves in for a chance of selection.
“He has been fairly clear on what he requires from people. That type of clarity is good for players and they enjoy that. I think they are looking forward to playing with their provinces in the next few weeks and to try and force their way into the team then for the GUINNESS Series.
“I think there are certain parts of the game around the carry and around the tackle which are really important and make a big difference to the success of your game and there are certain things he is looking for around the carry and tackle.
“He has made it clear what he requires from guys and it gives guys something to work on while they’re away from the national set-up. That type of clarity is great to work with.”
O’Connell continued: “It is a challenge guys are used to and guys are well able to adapt to it. It means when you do come into camp you have to work hard to get up to speed and you have really have your head screwed on.
“Things don’t happen as automatically as they do when you are training week in, week out but that is part of the challenge.
“A lot fo guys are used to it and the young guys who’ve come in who aren’t used to it get helped out a lot by the senior guys.”
Schmidt has also made it clear that he is willing to bring in players on the fringes, having worked initially with 42 players during the two-day camp. O’Connell believes that will only work to the benefit of the Irish team as they build strength in depth.
“One of the strengths Leinster have had over the last number of years is the competition for places. No one has ever felt secure for a place there in the last few years – that is the feedback you get back from the (Leinster) guys.
“That seems to be something Joe is big into. We have big numbers in the last few days, two teams pretty much training against each other with a few guys swapping in and out.
“Everyone genuinely feels with form they have a great chance of playing in the GUINNESS Series. it is a good thing for the Irish team and it’s a good thing for the provinces as we build towards the internationals in November.”