Monday, February 1, 2010

O'Connell: Fixture list a tough task for Ireland

Ireland and Munster lock Paul O'Connell believes winning the RBS 6 Nations eclipsed being awarded the Lions captaincy, but reckons a repeat will be tough to achieve in 2010.

Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on Friday's night Late Late Show, he said: 'Winning the Grand Slam was really a career highlight. I think captaining the Lions is very special but captaining a team is not something you ever really set out to achieve. If it comes your way, and you're happy to do it well and good.

Ireland beat all comers in the Championship last season, the first Irish side to do so since Karl Mullen's Five Nations Grand Slammers in 1948 and the first to do so in the Six Nations.

O'Connell added: 'The Grand Slam was an amazing moment. It's not just that Irish rugby was so long in pursuit of it. That core group of players were chasing it for so long. You go back and Brian had been there since 1999.'

However, Ireland will play France and England away this year and O'Connell expects that to make a repeat Grand Slam a very difficult proposition.

He said:'It's a very tough year for us this year with England and France away. Grand Slam expectations have probably been dampened by that fixture list. But we have a great chance in the Championship and we'll give it a good run again.'

The Munster captain is also in pursuit of Heineken Cup honours having won the competition twice already. However, the men in red are struggling for consistency.

O'Connell said: 'We're delighted to come out top of our group. We're probably a bit off where would like to be and there are probably a few teams who fancy their chances a bit more ahead of us.'

Over the course of an entertaining interview, O'Connell, 30, also revealed that he and girlfriend Emily are expecting their first child at the end of April.

Ireland V Italy Hospitality

England V Wales Hospitality

Scotland V England Hospitality

France V Italy Hospitality

Six Nations Hospitality

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