Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 2°C
# Impact
Snapshot: Paul O'Connell lined out for Ireland 'A' opposite the greatest bench of all time
You’d be tempted to throw them on well before the 60 minute mark.

ON AN OTHERWISE humdrum Tuesday night in 2001, Ravenhill hosted an uncapped ‘A’ international that managed to introduce a host of stars to World Rugby.

Jonathan Davies (@JPDavis89) was there that night to watch a masterclass from Kiwi fullback Ben Blair, scoring the majority of New Zealand’s points in a 43 – 30 win. Today, he tweeted this glorious image of the match programme to fuel our nostalgia.

big prog @JPDavis89) @JPDavis89)

IRELAND A: Gavin Duffy; Anthony Horgan, Jason Holland, Justin Bishop, James Topping; Paddy Wallace, Brian O’Meara: Reggie Corrigan, Shane Byrne, Simon Best; Leo Cullen, Mick O’Driscoll; Alan Quinlan, Keith Gleeson, Tony McWhirter.

Replacements: Paul Shields, Justin Fitzpatrick, Paul O’Connell, Andy Ward, Ben Willis, Mark McHugh, Peter McKenna.

New Zealand XV: Ben Blair; Roger Randle, Nathan Mauger, Caleb Ralph, Pita Alatini; David Hill, Mark Robinson: David Hewett, Tom Willis, Kees Meeuws, Dion Waller, Simon Maling; Jerry Collins, Marty Holah, Paul Miller.

Replacements: Anton Oliver, Greg Feek, Chris Jack, Richie McCaw, Byron Kelleher, Andrew Mehrtens, Jonah Lomu.

Notably a 21-year-old Paul O’Connell sat on the bench for Ireland, still dreaming of winning his first Test cap (of at least 100) later the same season.

Look at him there, proudly sporting a red mohawk.

It’s the other set of replacements who really promised an impact though. Four days before he would win his first All Black cap in Dublin, young Richard McCaw joined Jonah Lomu, Andrew Mehrtens, Byron Kelleher, Chris Jack, Anton Oliver and current Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek on what (we’d bet good money on proving themselves as) the best bench ever.

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Johah Lomu INPHO Jonah watches on at Ravenhill. INPHO

You can just imagine young Paulie, looking around him at recent Heineken Cup-winners Justin Fitzpatrick and Andrew Ward and feeling that need to win grow inside him.

We couldn’t let this opportunity pass with noting Ireland’s number 10 on the day, you could hardly miss him with that head of luscious golden hair.

Paddy Wallace INPHO INPHO

He got away with the audacious hairstyle though, scoring (according to Gareth Harron here) two thirds of Ireland’s total.

He’s about to win his 100th Ireland cap but Paulie’s first one was pretty damn memorable

He used to be a 10 and refused to make sandwiches — Paul O’Connell’s genesis story is absolutely brilliant

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