Paul Jeremiah O’CONNELL
Ireland Caps: 85 (50-2-33)
Ireland Points: 30 (6t)
Ireland Debut: v Wales 2002
British & Irish Lions: 2005 (NZ), 2009 (SA) Tests: 6 (1-0-5)
Lions Debut: 04/06/2005 v Bay of Plenty
Test Record v Australia: 7 (2-1-4)
Paul O’Connell will be making his third successive British & Irish Lions tour, completing a full house of southern hemisphere adventures having previously travelled to New Zealand and South Africa. The 33-year-old second row skippered the Lions on their last tour four years ago, leading the side to a third-Test victory over the Springboks and winning widespread plaudits for his captaincy efforts.
He has started the last six Lions Test matches after being named in the first XV for the games against the All Blacks in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland and the Boks in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg.
He will start the tour with a total of 11 appearances for Britain and Ireland’s elite behind him, with five of those coming in 2005 and a further six in 2009. The Munsterman has won 85 caps for his country, with just six of those coming from the replacements’ bench. He made his senior Ireland debut against Wales in 2002 and first captained the side two years later.
He has played in three Rugby World Cups, in 2003, 2007 and 2011, and helped Ireland win the Triple Crown in 2004, 2006 and 2007. He tasted Grand Slam glory in 2009, starting all five fixtures as Ireland claimed a first clean sweep in 61 years.
He captained Ireland at the start of 2012, but a knee injury brought his Championship campaign to a premature end and he was forced to sit out the summer tour of New Zealand. A back problem then prevented him from playing in the autumn internationals against South Africa and Argentina and the entire 2013 RBS 6 Nations campaign. He missed most of the domestic season as well, playing just twice in October before finally returning to action in early April.
A double Heineken Cup winner, having first claimed European club rugby’s biggest prize in 2006 before captaining Munster to a second success in 2008., he led Munster to the semi-final stage of Europe's top tournament this season.