The perfect 5: Paul O'Connell's stand-out internationals on Irish soil

Lansdowne Road just won’t be the same without him.

IF PAUL O’CONNELL is not Ireland’s best ever second row, he’s most certainly in the all time XV alongside Willie John McBride.

So while today may not quite be the end of his era, it’s certainly a landmark as supporters wave goodbye to the lock before he takes his team-mates on the short trip to the Rugby World Cup ahead of his international retirement and move to Toulon.

By way of a tribute, we would have loved to wade through 8000 minutes of footage to pull together O’Connell’s finest clear-outs, mauls and line-out calls, but there simply wasn’t time. So here are just five of the times when O’Connell gave Irish crowds a hero.

1. Young Paulie mauls over Wales

With seven tries in 106 caps (including two tries in a RWC warm-up at home to Wales in 2003 for what it’s worth), being on the scoresheet is simply not what O’Connell is about.  However, getting over the line on his debut at Lansdowne Road was clearly a special moment.

It’s just a pity a concussion from that maul deprived him of the memory.

MottiRugby / YouTube

2. Manic aggression

O’Connell’s most intangible quality is also among his best. The Limerick man is an inspiration in both word and deed. So when international rugby first graced Croke Park in 2007, O’Connell made sure everyone around him was ready to run through walls, let alone blue jerseys.

Mark Conroy / YouTube

3. Now you’re speaking my language

If you set O’Connell a challenge, he’s going to tear up trees to achieve it. That’s just the way it is.

The task laid in front of Paulie in November 2009 was to beat reigning World Champions South Africa.

The trees on this occasion took the form of an Afrikaans phrasebook that helped Ireland’s leader decipher the visiting Springbok’s line-out calls and push Ireland to a 15 – 12 victory.

Paul O'Connell under pressure James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

4. The message

In the 79th minute of a Test match, you might expect the older members of a squad to be struggling, drifting, planting their feet and hoping trouble goes looking for fresher legs. O’Connell lives for moments like this. With line speed that would be impressive in minute one, he drove back Ben McCalman, presumably roaring ‘YOU SHALL NOT PASS’.

hick726 / YouTube

5. England, a red rag to a bull

A heartbreaking late Vincent Clerc try denied Ireland a win on their first outing in Croke Park. But when England visited Jones Road, Paul O’Connell rallied the troops and again set the tone with another incredible display of physicality combined with flawless technique.

Paul O'Connell over Jonny Wilkinson and Tom Rees 24/2/2007 Paulie looks ready to eat Jonny Wilkinson and Tom Rees. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Eight years later, he was still leading the charge.


O’Connell’s greatest days were the ones his son shared the taste of victory

‘If I could take back the times I used to slag John Hayes, I would’ — Paul O’Connell

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