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O’Connell Hails Schmidt’s Influence

O’Connell Hails Schmidt’s Influence

Paul O’Connell has hailed the influence of Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt after the New Zealander won the Six Nations title in his first season in charge.

* The victorious Ireland squad and management will arrive home with the Six Nations trophy in Terminal 2 of Dublin Airport at approximately 2.30pm today.

Paul O’Connell was in inspirational form as Ireland clung on to beat France 22-20 in Paris and the talismanic captain gave Joe Schmidt plenty of credit for the turnaround in the team’s fortunes.

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“It’s been a massive impact, no doubt about it,” admitted O’Connell. “There’s no doubt we had a very poor season last year. A disappointing, frustrating season – albeit injury-plagued as well.

“I suppose Joe’s brought a lot of what you would hear Leinster players saying in the media for the last number of years.

“There’s real clarity about what we’re doing when we attack. Real clarity about what we need to do in the ruck – a very good way of rucking that’s very effective.

“People are in no doubt of their role, how well they need to do their role and how well they need to know their role.

“I just think when you have a good team and you can give players that kind of clarity, it allows them to be good players. I think that’s what we’ve had in the last few months.”

The Munster second row was delighted to get the first win of his career in Paris but he also said that the performance at the Stade de France left room for improvement.

“It was great. From the pressure France have been under during the week, we knew where they were going to be as a team and where they were going to be physically. We spoke about trying to match that and go beyond it,” explained the 34-year-old.

“I was delighted that we got three good tries and that isn’t an easy thing to do in Paris. I’ve been coming here since I was 22 and I think that’s my first win.

“I’m really a little bit disappointed with the last 10 minutes. It’s probably something to address in a future date and something to put to the back of our minds now. But it certainly was disappointing that we didn’t close it out in a more controlled fashion.”

This was O’Connell’s second Championship win, having been a key member of the Grand Slam-winning side in 2009. The Limerick native believes that the manner in which the latest success was achieved bodes well for the future of Irish rugby.

“Historically this is always our toughest Six Nations, with England away from home and France away from home.

“Our record recently at Twickenham isn’t too bad but in Paris it’s still quite poor despite our relative success in recent years. So, to be able to win the Championship when we have those two fixtures away from home is a great achievement.

“Certainly there’s been an awful lot of close calls in the past. We’ve achieved success with our provinces, certainly in Munster and Leinster in recent years. But this is where you really want to achieve it as an Irishman with a green jersey on.

“So, to make the progress we’ve made in a year is great but to have that progress endorsed with a trophy as well is a great feeling.

“It’s a great feeling for all the players, not just the senior players. I suppose it gives a lot of the younger guys in the squad that winning habit and that’s an important thing to have.”