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'Paul O'Connell has an aura, a presence - he's a world class operator'

Munster and Ireland prop Dave Kilcoyne has outlined the impact the former Lions captain has had in Ireland camp.

Ireland's new forwards coach, Paul O'Connell.
Ireland's new forwards coach, Paul O'Connell.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

DAVE KILCOYNE IS 32, an international player since 2012, winner of 39 caps, yet still considered the coming man.

It’s a tag he’s anxious to shift, even if he’s too cautious or polite to say as much. He, more than any of us, is fully aware that only eight of those 39 caps have been starts and only two of those, against Italy and Russia in 2019, were games with something on the line.

If he was unfortunate enough to overlap his career with Cian Healy and Jack McGrath then he was even more unlucky to pick up a nasty ankle injury at a time when he was about to skip to queue and take over from Healy as Ireland’s No1.

Five months later, he’s back, fully rehabilitated, promoted to the chair of the squad’s social committee but now seeking a bit more responsibility than just being someone who sorts out the music and the popcorn.

“Like everyone else in here, I want to be starting for Ireland and contributing to the team as best I can to help them win the Six Nations,” he said earlier today. “That is everyone’s goal in here. The injury is no excuse – it hampered me earlier on but I have a couple of games under my belt now (since finishing his rehab). I will be trying to get better every day and trying to win this competition.”

What a player wants and what he gets often end up being conflicting things, though.

For some time now he has been considered a better bet for the loosehead position than Healy – but the Leinster man is a survivor, while Kilcoyne’s capacity for producing big performances off the bench have left him pigeon-holed as what Eddie Jones describes as an ‘ideal finisher’.

“Ultimately it is the coaches who decide what your role is. One thing I will say, though, is that over the years, whether it is a team winning grand slams or one just completing the Six Nations, that you rarely see the same starting XV on the final day as the first day.

“So whatever my role is, I will be giving that 100 per cent and contributing to the team as best I can.”

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paul-oconnell-dave-kilcoyne-and-damien-varley O'Connell and Dave Kilcoyne chat together during their time at Munster. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Helping him make that contribution will be Paul O’Connell, newly installed as forwards coach, a former team mate of Kilcoyne’s, and also – like Craig Casey – a product of the same school, Ardscoil Rís, in Limerick.

“Paul is a world class operator,” said Kilcoyne, “someone who has done it all in rugby, captained Lions tours, Ireland, won Heineken Cups, I’m not going to go through his entire CV here, but his presence alone gets the best out of people.

“You want to gravitate towards those people and learn off them – because his level of detail on everything is spot on. He always had an aura and a presence – I played with him right the way through Munster, and he is just a phenomenal leader.

“Needless to say then, he is adding massively to the environment, not just in coaching. When he talks, everyone listens.”

Originally published at 14.07

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Garry Doyle

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