To mark the launch of the new Munster alternate shirt from adidas, we were given the opportunity to chat to their captain Paul O’Connell about all things rugby.
O’Connell is Munster through and through and has made over 150 appearances for the province. He has picked up two Heineken Cup winners medals along the way as well. On the international scene, he is closing in on the landmark 100 caps for Ireland and has picked up a number of honours, which include two Six Nations titles – one of which being the elusive Grand Slam in 2009. He skippered the British & Irish Lions on their tour of South Africa that same year and currently has 7 caps for the touring side.
Did you enjoy the recent tour to Argentina?
I did. It was very intense in that we only came together as a squad 6 days before the first test. We had to travel to Argentina in this time, acclimatise, shake off the journey and be ready for a test match. Since some front line players didn’t travel we also had to bring a lot of guys up to speed. So the workload was heavy but we played some good rugby and it was nice to be in a country that I had not toured before.
Do you enjoy pre-season?
Yes. I like training and seeing the gradual improvements week by week. Weekends off allow me to take part in my other hobby, golf, which I really enjoy.
Are you looking forward to the new season with Munster?
I am. We made 2 Semi-finals last year so we are making progress. The important thing is to move on again. We were very inconsistent last year. It’s a great feeling to feel you are improving every week. If we can produce some of the big performances we did last year and be more consistent in between it could be a great year.
Are you looking forward to working with the new Munster coaching team?
Yes. I know most of the coaches having played with 3 of them in my time with Munster. Ian Costelloe has been involved in Munster for a long time so I know him well as well. I don’t know Brian Walsh but he is very highly rated. They are all local guys also which is an interesting move for Munster. We have always had a foreign influence somewhere in the past.
What are your thoughts on the new Munster away kit?
I really like it. Maybe it is because we wear the red kit a lot but I do love those 2 or 3 games where we pull on the away gear. This year it’s very different and I really like it.
How long have you been wearing adidas boots?
I reckon about 10 years but I always wore them when I was young as well.
Why did you choose the Kakari boot?
Scrummaging is a massive part of the game now. I feel the Kakari gives me real stability to generate as much power as I can. I have a wide foot as well and I just feel really comfortable when I pull them on.
Do you ever give feedback to adidas on their boots?
I do. I have been to the factory in Germany twice to be fitted and to give the guys some feedback. Comfort, stability and lightness is something I always look for and which the Kakari always delivers.
What are the most important things you look for in a pair of boots?
Sorry, I answered that one above. First and foremost they have to be comfortable. I want to pull them on and feel good in them. Also as I scrummage and line-out, jump stability is important. If they can deliver that and be light that’s the perfect formula. It helps that that they look great too.
Do you prefer black based boots?
I’m old school and definitely prefer black boots! The black World Cups were always my favourite when I was young and playing Gaelic football at home.
What age did you start playing the game?
Best advice for young players?
Work on your skills all the time and don’t be afraid to try things. If you want the confidence to do things on a big stage it needs to be ingrained in your skill set. This comes from practice.
Best advice given to you?
Practice makes perfect. Don’t expect to be good at something unless you have put the work in.
How do you relax away from rugby?
I play golf. I played a lot when I was young and don’t get to play as much as I would like now but I love it.
Looking forward to the upcoming World Cup?
I am 34 now so I tend not to look too far ahead. I am in the thick of pre-season now so I am focused on getting as much as I can out of that. If I can accumulate a lot of good work this pre-season and next I should be in a good place for the World Cup. It’s really exciting that it is on in England which is so close to home. It will most certainly be my last so I hope it’s a good one.