What exactly is the purpose of the co-commentator on a BBC Six Nations game? Is it to analyse the game or to speak for the parish? Paul O'Connell has been slowly dipping his toes into the scintillating world of rugby punditry and emerged as the commentary star of last night's BBC broadcast beside Eddie Butler and Jonathan Davies. His calm, clear, balanced and certain analysis won him widespread praise from both media reviewers and punters alike, in Ireland and Britain.
Surely, with Welshmen Butler and Davies beside him, O'Connell must have been tempted to speak up for Ireland. But he never put on those green-tinted glasses - he called the match as he saw it, and viewers seemed almost shocked by his impartiality.
Paul O'Connell is never going to keep this pundit gig if he remains this unbiased!
— Alister Lees (@AlisterLees) March 10, 2017
Just watching Wales v Ireland on iplayer (sorry not sorry). Gotta say @Paul_OConnell 's commentary is great! Very fair and very intelligent.
— Lloyd Davies (@lloyddavies789) March 11, 2017
Best part of this match is Paul O'Connell in the commentary box !!
— Harry Pilling (@Freddy_Laker) March 10, 2017
Paul O'Connell has been a joy to listen to tonight, knowledgable, impartial and genuinely insightful, brilliant punditry #WALvIRE #6nations
— Rodriguez (@SweetEnolaGay) March 10, 2017
It was interesting to see O'Connell entirely shut down Eddie Butler early on, after Butler wondered if Wayne Barnes had wrongly penalised Sean O'Brien for being offside.
#WALvIRE Paul O'Connell just put Eddie Butler very firmly in his place. Excellent.
— DomJohn (@DominicusJohann) March 10, 2017
O'Connell was also incredibly insightful during the game's pivotal play, the Henshaw obstruction on Ireland's rolling maul in the 70th minute. He was coming to grips with his mixed feelings about the penalty's merits in real time while offering a concise explanation of what Henshaw did wrong and how it could have been avoided.
Paul O'Connell dry and witty on BBC re Henshaw and the maul; "know your place" 😁
— Georgie Bingham 🇺🇦 (@georgiebingham) March 10, 2017
It wasn't just folks on social media that appreciated O'Connell's co-commentary. Malachy Clerkin was effusive in his praise for O'Connell in today's Irish Times.
...also agree with this. Paul O'Connell was excellent. pic.twitter.com/RKHZcDHeLM
— Paul Kimmage (@PaulKimmage) March 11, 2017
The sentiment was expressed by many media members in the last 24 hours.
Paul O'Connell really excellent on co-commentary. Simple explanation as to why Barnes gave that
— aidan o'hara (@oharaa) March 10, 2017
Re-watching the game on BBC, Paul O'Connell is really excellent in the co-commentator role. Such balanced insight throughout
— Rúaidhrí O'Connor (@RuaidhriOC) March 11, 2017
It's just the latest excellent media contribution from Ireland's 'golden generation' of rugby players.