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Dublin: 16 °C Wednesday 17 July, 2019

'I broke my hand punching Simon Easterby in my first game back'

Paul O’Connell says his approach to training has altered massively over the last nine years.

NINE YEARS SEPARATE Paul O’Connell’s two IRUPA Players’ Player of the Year awards, and the Ireland captain has changed greatly in that time.

2006 saw the Munster lock follow in the footsteps of Malcolm O’Kelly, Gordon D’Arcy and Johnny O’Connor in claiming the award that probably means a little more to recipients that any other.

Paul O'Connell O'Connell in Munster colours in 2006. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Voted for by their fellow professionals, the Players’ Player of the Year has earned the respect of those who really count. O’Connell was honoured again on Wednesday night in Dublin, a unanimous choice as the best in Ireland this season.

Now 35 years of age and still weighing up whether or not to retire from playing at the conclusion of this year’s World Cup, O’Connell is a changed player from the 2006 version.

“Two completely different players,” said O’Connell before the awards ceremony. “The way I can train now and have to train now is completely different to what it was back then.

“It seems so long ago now, and I remember that the year I won it [2006], I actually had a very long pre-season and I broke my hand punching Simon Easterby in my first game back and ended up getting another 10 weeks where I had the broken hand.

I was able to train really, really hard and I ended up getting a 22-week pre-season. When I got back I just felt incredibly fit. Second row is a work-rate position and I’m a work-rate player and it was that series of events that helped me go on and have a good season.

“Even if I broke my hand now and had a longer pre-season, I wouldn’t be able to train the way I did back then. The stuff I did during that pre-season, my body would fall apart doing now. It’s two very different players and two very different approaches to training.”

O’Connell once again fielded questions about his impending retirement decision, as well as the possibility of a move to Toulon next season. The answer remains the same for now: “I still don’t know what I’m doing.”

Paul O'Connell O'Connell at Munster training this week. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

After the brief visit to Dublin for the IRUPA awards, O’Connell is back to the day job with Munster, who are looking to grab a home semi-final spot tomorrow when they host the Dragons in Cork.

The late concession of a try to Ulster last time out rankles still, given that a win would have seen Munster to the top of the Guinness Pro12 table.

“It was a big opportunity lost,” said O’Connell. “If we had seen out the game, we’d have a crack at a home semi-final that would be in our control.

Unfortunately we’re now probably relying on other people to do us favours and we have a big ask ourselves to try and beat the Dragons and get a bonus point ourselves as well.

“A whole number of things went wrong [for that Ulster try]: we put too many people into the maul, we missed a tackle, held too many people on the short side.

“There’s a whole long list of them, but that’s the way it is. Hopefully we’ll learn from it and if we’re in that situation we’ll be able to deal with it better.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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