Alun Wyn Jones has heaped praise on Paul O’Connell and the influential impact the giant second-row had on the Grand Slam triumph over Wales.
O’Connell is one of the front-runners for the Lions captaincy for this summer’s tour to South Africa.
And opposite number Jones paid tribute to the Munster captain for his leadership at the line-out to deny Wales possession, territory and ultimately victory in Cardiff.
“As an eight, we had done quite well in the previous four games at the line-out but we had to put our hands up after the game,” said Jones, who could well join O’Connell in the boiler house during the three-match series against the Springboks in late June and early July.
“The line-out only worked in patches and we could have been smarter.
“But defensively we came up against four giant line-out jumpers and although we did our utmost to stop them, Paul O’Connell is not being tipped for the Lions captaincy for nothing.
“We knew it would be a tough Test match and really physical.
“I thought we were in the ascendancy and it would have been interesting if we had another six minutes to play.
“But in fairness to Ireland they took their chances early in the second half. It’s just a shame to come out on the wrong side of the score sheet.
“It’s been a difficult year because, as top seeds, other teams have done their homework on us and there is an element that they have worked us out.”
Jones’ Wales and Ospreys team-mate Lee Byrne reckons the Wales players will be gunning for revenge against Munster in the Heineken Cup next month.
Byrne is a major doubt for the Welsh region’s quarter-final against the reigning champions at Thomond Park after limping off with an ankle injury in the first half of the clash at the Millennium Stadium.
The Wales full-back remained on crutches yesterday and faces a scan today (Monday) but Byrne insists – with the help of Ireland try-scoring hero Tommy Bowe – that it will be pay-back in Limerick on April 12.
“I hope it’s not too bad. I just felt the injury when I was running. The tendon on the bottom of my foot tightened up and I couldn‘t put any weight on it. We’ll have to wait and see,” said Byrne.
“I’m not the greatest watcher of games and it was a nail-biting ending. It was a bit weird seeing Tommy scoring against us but he’s improved so much since he joined the Ospreys.
“He’s a great player and I thought he was the man-of-the-match. But Ireland deserved their victory and did a job on us.
“We have to go back to the drawing board with the Lions tour at the end of the season. The team that wins the Six Nations usually takes the most players so it will be interesting to see who the coaches decide to select.
“I’m just going to concentrate on getting fit for the Ospreys but it will be nice to go over to Munster and get revenge over there.”