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Dublin: 10 °C Sunday 31 August, 2014

Paul O’Connell eyes room for improvement even at finest hour

The captain doesn’t sound like a man ready to stop at two championship medals.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

JOE SCHMIDT’S MANTRA has always been one of continuous improvement, but even he may be encouraging Paul O’Connell  to ever so slightly ease off the accelerator tonight.

Having hung on to claim victory in France and victory in the Six Nations with a 20 -22 win in Paris, O’Connell still had his game face on when interviewed.

And when Ireland’s captain has his game face on, only perfection will suffice:

“I was walking round the field a bit disappointed with the last 10 minutes, we would have like to have closed it out better than we did,” the Munster lock told RTE.

“We would have like to have held out in a much better fashion. That begins to frustrate you straight away after the final whistle. We had our fair share of luck in the dying minutes, but I suppose it’s good to ride your luck for once.”

Since Schmidt took over as head coach, O’Connell has been the one voice who seemed to strike a different chord than the ‘details’ driven praise from every other player. Particularly after defeat to Australia in November, O’Connell demanded that Ireland players use the detail in conjunction with, as opposed to instead of, a high level of intensity and passion.

Four months on and O’Connell is praising the clarity brought by the Kiwi. And, he allowed himself a moment or two to celebrate too.

“Joe has brought a lot of confidence to the group. A lot of clarity and we’ve thrived on that.

“It’s a good measure of the team today, to come to Paris, to score three  tries and win away from home in what was essentially a cup final.”

He added: “I’ve been coming to Paris since I was 22 years of age. It’s a very tough place to win. I’ve never won here before, so to be here as captain at 34 on Brian’s last cap is a great feeling.”

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