Paul O’Connell has no idea where rumours of French move came from

Ireland captain focused on banishing memories of last year’s Australia defeat

Paul O’Connell leads the captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium ahead of the game against Australia on Saturday. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Paul O’Connell leads the captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium ahead of the game against Australia on Saturday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

Paul O’Connell has claimed “there’s been nothing done on my behalf” in the wake of rumours linking him with a move to France after next year’s World Cup.

The Ireland captain dismissed suggestions he would cut short his Munster and IRFU contract, which runs until 2016, to join Pau.

O’Connell said he has had no contact with the French Pro D2 club, before switching to more immediate thoughts of how to atone for Ireland’s “toughest day” under Joe Schmidt when facing Australia on Saturday.

Ireland were overwhelmed 32-15 by the Wallabies at the Aviva Stadium last November, with lock O’Connell admitting “they took us apart”.

The 35-year-old will lead Schmidt’s men in a bid for a first autumn clean sweep since 2006 in Dublin this weekend, conceding last year’s loss to Australia remains fresh in the memory.

“I don’t know anything about it. I don’t know where it came from,” said O’Connell when quizzed on links to Pau.

“I suppose it’s the fact that James Coughlan and Simon Mannix are there and I knew them at Munster, but there’s been nothing done on my behalf, and nothing done on Pau’s behalf anyway.

“I’m contracted until the summer of 2016, so I just don’t know where it came from.”

Ireland have still lost just twice under Schmidt since the Kiwi took the helm for last year’s autumn series.

O’Connell lambasted Ireland’s lack of mental tenacity in that Australia defeat last year, where wing Nick Cummins claimed a brace of tries.

Schmidt had his players whipped into technical shape that night, but O’Connell believes Ireland lacked a mental and physical edge.

Schmidt has transformed Ireland’s fortunes since taking the helm however, claiming the Six Nations crown in his first campaign and edging the side to third place in the world rankings.

“I think it was a toughest day (under Schmidt), yeah,” said O’Connell when reviewing last year’s Australia defeat.

“There was a lot of excitement when Joe took over the job.

“He’d been so successful with Leinster, and I think we had a lot of really good things in place going into the game.

“But ultimately there’s a few things in rugby as well, that no matter who’s coaching or who you’re playing or where you’re playing that are really important.

“The physical confrontation, being built up for that and ready for that, is massive.

“And I think in that game last year were weren’t in the right place, and were just so far ahead of us in that regard.

“In so many aspects of the game they took us apart, and that was the big disappointment in that game.

“That’s where we realised you have to be able to marry the two, you have to be able to marry the detail, the knowledge of your role, with the big, physical confrontation you need to be able to manage as well.”

O’Connell warned his team-mates Australia will not suffer for fluency despite last month’s coach switch from Ewen McKenzie to former Leinster boss Michael Cheika.

“They seem to have adapted really well,” O’Connell said.

“Their French game last week just looked so physical, the line speed of both teams; the way both teams tackled, the way both teams competed at the ruck.

“They don’t seem to be struggling with the changeover.

“They are a bit further down the track than us, they’ve had their summer series, their Rugby Championship, they have had three games in a row to gel and work together.

“So they’re in a very good place in terms of how they’ve gelled in terms of combinations.”

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