Rugby

Phone Call From Andy Farrell Surprised Paul O'Connell

Phone Call From Andy Farrell Surprised Paul O'Connell

When the call came from Andy Farrell, it was a surprise for Paul O'Connell. Though they had been in contact, the possibility that O'Connell might become part of the Ireland coaching team had not been touched.

In early January, it was announced that the former Ireland captain would be joining Farrell's backroom team as forwards coach. The addition of O'Connell allows Simon Easterby to concentrate on defence.

"I’d be in contact with Andy, I was in the camp last year," O'Connell said on Tuesday ahead of Ireland's Six Nations clash with Wales this weekend.

"I’d be in contact with Simon [Easterby] and a few of the other coaches. Andy asked me after the Autumn Nations Cup would I be interested in getting involved.

"I took a few weeks to think about it and decided it was the right thing for me to do.

"I feel I can offer value. I have an awful lot to learn, certainly as a coach, but I felt I could immediately offer value to the coaching staff and the players, and it’s a great opportunity.

"I think international coaching is very different. You get that development opportunity, you get a chance to reflect. You get a chance to improve during the times you are not coaching, when you are not stuck in a tournament.

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"When you are in the middle of a tournament it’s full on.

"My recent connection to playing, you could say it’s a weakness, but I think it’s a strength as well.

"You are still clued in to what a player feels and how a player learns and how hard it can be to learn at times and to change a habit, so that was it. I was excited when he rang me and I think he’s got a really good environment here.

"The players enjoy it. I suppose there’s a very collaborative approach, which I would have seen when I was in with them last year, whenever I speak to the players.

"It’s a great environment to join and the opportunity excited me."

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The lineout has been an issue for Ireland in recent times. O'Connell hopes he can have an impact on that aspect of the game.

"To be able to see pictures and have the feel of what’s going to happen before it happens [is important]," he said.

"You need to be there a lot, you need to see it, you probably need to have a few bad days and learn from them.

"I think the Ireland lineout has been pretty good; there’s been a few high-profile losses right on the opposition line and they are very expensive.

"You can lose a lineout on the halfway that you haven’t had an amazing chance to score from but if you’ve a lineout five metres out it’s an important lineout.

"There has been high-profile losses for the lineout. It’s been a big learning curve for players. I would have gone through that as a player as well.

"You can do all the analysis and put all the systems in place, there is a feel and there is a bit of experience that allows you to see the pictures quickly so that’s important for the players.

"It’s an area I’ve an interest in, I’m familiar with the system that we would use. It’s evolved from when I’ve played but I suppose there are little bits and pieces in all the provinces that we steal and poach off each other.

"I’d like to think I can offer value there. It takes a bit of pressure off Simon, obviously, as well. That was a big part for me to be able to come in and know there’d be a good handover because he was moving to defence and you have that."

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PJ Browne
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