Aggressive, commanding at the line-out and effective at making hard yards, O'Connell is one of the finest forwards around and would have walked into any World Cup XV following with his displays in Australia.
The 24-year-old has also enjoyed a superb opening to his 2004 RBS 6 Nations campaign, performing with distinction in the opener against
France and helping Ireland to a crushing victory over Wales.
Next up for Eddie O'Sullivan's men are the world champions at Twickenham, and O'Connell will give England fans a glimpse of Johnson's potential successor - even if the Irishman himself dismisses any similarity.
"Martin Johnson has been the standard bearer of second-row play. I've watched him plenty of times but I wouldn't compare myself to him, because I have long way to go before I reach his level," said the Irishman
"He's always played on the edge, is highly aggressive, a strong tackler and a good ball carrier. He was a great servant to England - a great leader."
Sir Clive Woodward has managed to overcome Johnson's international retirement - announced before the RBS 6 Nations - thanks to the number of quality second rows currently serving England's cause.
Injuries to Danny Grewcock and Simon Shaw mean that Woodward's fourth-choice lock will be in action at Twickenham on Saturday, but O'Connell believes Steve Borthwick is no weak link after playing against the Bath forward in the past.
"England have so much depth at lock. They have Danny Grewcock and Simon Shaw unavailable but they are still able to bring in a guy of Steve's quality," he said.
"Steve will want to prove himself like any player does when he steps into the international arena. I played against him at under-21s level, and he's a real pro even though he's still quite young. He's very hungry."
O'Sullivan has been forced to shuffle his second-row resources after Donncha O'Callaghan suffered a knee injury against Wales, with veteran Malcolm O'Kelly restored to the starting line-up.
But the position is also an area of strength for last year's RBS 6 Nations runners-up - and although O'Connell is undoubtedly Ireland's second-row kingpin, he is not taking his place in the side for granted.
"I don't care who I play with as long as I get on the pitch, and all the lads will say the same. It is brilliant that there's such competition at second row, and we're pushing each other all the time," he said.
"Donncha will be back in a week or two - for the Italy game, I hope - and that puts pressure on me and Mal to perform. We'll see how it works out."