100 not out: O'Connell 'incredibly motivated' to play on for Ireland

Joe Schmidt says he hasn’t discussed any retirement plans with the legendary second row.

AS THE SECOND row gets set to win cap number 100, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt says he has not spoken to Paul O’Connell about any plans to retire from playing.

Ireland's Paul O'Connell 1/3/2015 O'Connell is set for a milestone this weekend.

The Munster lock has indicated previously this season that he may bow out following the World Cup later this year, leading to suggestions that he is facing into the final two games of his Six Nations career in the next fortnight.

However, O’Connell’s current contract extends into the summer of 2016, with the 35-year-old admitting he may continue to play on until that date depending on his physical condition.

There are few signs of O’Connell slowing down in terms of his performance levels and there are a number of high-profile incidences of second rows playing on into their late 30s, so the hope for Munster and Ireland fans is that O’Connell will not retire this year.

Speaking at Carton House this afternoon, Schmidt said it’s not something he has discussed with O’Connell. Instead, the focus of their conversations has been on beating Wales on Saturday in Cardiff.

To be honest, I haven’t spoken to him about anything other than what we might do at kick off, and it doesn’t get too much further down the line than that,” smiled Schmidt.

“Paul’s pretty happy with that. There’s a part of him that would love to play forever and right now he’s playing and enjoying that. He’s incredibly motivated to play as well as he can.

Paul O'Connell O'Connell fighting fit at Ireland training today. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I think other players are really motivated to support him, whether it’s his 100th cap or not. I think he’s been a fantastic leader and we’ve got a group then that lead with him. The other players have kind of led themselves, so it’s a great environment for us to have Paul there.

“Will he continue beyond the World Cup? I guess that’s a decision that he and his body will make post-the World Cup.”

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O’Connell’s Ireland teammate Jack McGrath also paid tribute to the lock ahead of his 100th cap. The loosehead prop admitted he has learned much from the way O’Connell prepares and reviews both games and training.

He gives you confidence in every aspect of your game and it’s always positive stuff,” revealed McGrath. “Like everyone says, he gets you to raise your level of performance and it’s just the minor details.

“If you get something wrong, you nearly feel bad because he works so hard himself. So it’s taking pride in your own thing you want to do as a player, knowing your plays and a lot of it comes down to his knowledge.

“He has such high standards.”

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