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Stephen Jones Confirms He Has Fully Changed His Tune On Paul O'Connell

Stephen Jones Confirms He Has Fully Changed His Tune On Paul O'Connell
By Gavin Cooney
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Often, Stephen Jones' column are an exhibit of wide judgements and a narrow mind.

He's spouted some er, questionable, views on Irish rugby in the past, but if one of the best things a man can do is be open to changing his mind, then Jones should be praised.

Back in 2009, during the Lions' tour of South Africa, Jones seemed to be at the vanguard of a crusade to get (captain) Paul O'Connell out of the team, believing that Simon Shaw and Nathan Hines should have been picked ahead of him.

Upon his confirmation as Lions captain prior to the tour, Jones wrote that:

At least O’Connell will be an inspirational figure. He is no tactical genius, preferring, as Martin Johnson did, to lead by example. The tour will also be the making or breaking of his place in history, because while his supporters have insisted that he is in the same bracket as Johnson, he has never quite wielded the same authority outside his home.

This set the tone for Jones' coverage, and he argued from thereon that Shaw and Hines should be in the team, ahead of the captain.


But to Jones' credit, he has seen the light. Jones has read O'Connell's new autobiography the Battle, and has written in today's Sunday Times that O'Connell's post-2009 exploits have changed his mind:


On the Lions tour of South Africa in 2009, when he was not at his best, I concluded that he was not going to be as big as the sizeable niche in rugby history that was already reserved for him.


He revived wonderfully, was magnificent way into his 30s and as recently as two seasons ago played a match against Harlequins for Munster in which the opposition seemed stupefied, too cowed even to jump against him.We have seen some great locks in this era - Matfield, Johnson, Shaw, Wyn Jones, Sharpe, Albacete.

But for his longevity, warrior spirit, nous and for the influence he wielded in his teams, O'Connell takes all the beating, even in that company.

Jones then continues his Irish rugby charm offensive overleaf, in which he believes that the best possible result in this season's Champions Cup would be a win for a side outside of England and France, tipping Leinster to go closest.

He says that, in the interests of the tournament, we should all be Leinster fans:


If there were any neutrals, anyone who wishes the whole venture well rather than roaring and ranting for their team, they would be roaring for Leinster to win the tournament.

For the duration of the tournament, we would all be Dubliners. Despite the traffic. And the taxi drivers.
Ah well, he couldn't go a whole week without a dig against Ireland at some stage.

We would offer our congratulations to Jones on changing his mind on O'Connell, but he's blocked us.



[Sunday Times]

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