Full name Paul Jeremiah O'Connell
Born October 20, 1979, Limerick
Current age 34 years 54 days
Major teams British and Irish Lions, Munster, Ireland
Height 6 ft 6 in
Weight 246 lb
|British and Irish Lions||2005-2013||7||7||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||5||0||28.57|
|IRB Rugby World Cup||2003-2011||13||13||0||0||0||0||0||0||8||5||0||61.53|
|Test debut||Ireland v Wales at Lansdowne Road, Feb 3, 2002 match details|
|Last Test||Ireland v New Zealand at Lansdowne Road, Nov 24, 2013 match details|
|Test Statsguru||Main menu | Career summary | Match list | Most points | Most tries | Tournament list|
Second-row Paul O'Connell is Munster through and through and holds the honour of having skippered the British & Irish Lions during their Test series with South Africa in 2009.
Born and bred in Limerick, second row O'Connell was an accomplished swimmer in his youth but opted for rugby and progressed through the Munster ranks to their firs team. O'Connell made his Test debut with a try against Wales in 2002 and by the time he toured with the British & Irish Lions to New Zealand in 2005 he was being hailed as a new Martin Johnson (though Brian O'Driscoll, not O'Connell, was the captain). The horrendous line-out performance in the first Test was made worse because Ireland's hooker Shane Byrne had been picked to provide a tried and tested link with O'Connell, and it set the tone for abject displays up front throughout the series.
On the club scene, Munster won the 2006 Heineken Cup, defeating Biarritz in Cardiff; in 2002 O'Connell, aged 21, had started in the final defeat by Leicester. In November 2006 he was the only northern hemisphere nominee for IRB player of the year (won by Richard McCaw). For Ireland, having scooped the Triple Crown in 2006, another followed in 2007, with O'Connell named Man of the Match in the 43-13 thrashing of England at Croke Park, but he was captain again for a defeat by France on the same ground. It was said that Ireland were put off their game by the emotion of playing at 'Croker' which arguably reflected poorly on O'Connell's leadership.
He steered Munster to Heineken Cup glory in 2008 but greater success would follow in 2009 when he played a key role in Ireland's historic Six Nations Grand Slam triumph. His performances were rewarded with the captaincy of the 2009 British & Irish Lions for their tour to South Africa - becoming the 10th Irishman to lead the elite tourists.
O'Connell led the Lions in all three Tests in South Africa but it was ultimately in a losing cause as the tourists lost 2-1. On returning from South Africa, O'Connell endured a difficult season as a post-Lions hangover affected Munster and Ireland. The lock played his part in Ireland's draw against Australia and victory over South Africa at Croke Park, but a disappointing defeat in Paris saw Ireland lose their grip on the Grand Slam and they finished the campaign with another defeat at home to Scotland.
By the time Munster's season came a cropper at Biarritz their captain was no longer available as he had been struck down with a mystery groin injury. O'Connell's prognosis was initially difficult to ascertain and although he was named in Ireland's tour party for New Zealand and Australia, the second-row was unable to travel.
Eventually the diagnosis was that of a groin infection, ruling the player out until December 2010. He returned to pre-season training in August and ended the 2010/11 season by leading Munster to the Celtic League title following their victory over rivals Leinster in the Grand Final at Thomond Park. And after being named in Declan Kidney's 30 man squad for the World Cup, O'Connell showed signs of being back to his imperial best with a storming performance against the Wallabies in Auckland. In December of that year, with Brian O'Driscoll ruled out with a shoulder problem, O'Connell was confirmed as Ireland skipper for the 2012 Six Nations.
He played three of their matches in the competition but was ruled out of the final two after sustaining a knee injury against France. And spending time on the sidelines became a frequent experience for O'Connell over the next few months as struggled with another knee injury and then a back injury in the 2012-13 season. He looks set to miss the 2013 Six Nations but harbours hopes of being fit for Lions duty in the summer.
O'Connell missed the entirety of the 2013 Six Nations, but a barnstorming, man-of-the-match display as Munster overpowered Harlequins in the Heineken Cup semi-finals showed that he was still the man for the big occasion.
While Clermont Auvergne ended Munster's Heineken Cup dream in the last four, three days later Lions coach Warren Gatland called O'Connell up for the tour to Australia, the third time O'Connell had been given the honour of touring with the Lions.
O'Connell started the Lions in strong form and played the opening test against the Wallabies but was injury ruled him out of the final two tests. However he remained in Australia to help motivate the squad to a test series victory over the Wallabies.