O’Connell is Munster’s main man

Paul O'Connell has already installed his team as firm underdogs to reach the 18th Heineken Cup final in Dublin and believes semi-final rivals ASM Clermont Auvergne will be "pleased" to have seen the Irishmen progress at the expense of Harlequins. [more]

O’Connell is Munster’s main man

Paul O’Connell has already installed his team as firm underdogs to reach the 18th Heineken Cup final in Dublin and believes semi-final rivals ASM Clermont Auvergne will be "pleased" to have seen the Irishmen progress at the expense of Harlequins.

The former Irish and British & Irish Lions skipper has already played in six semi-finals and knows what it takes to win overseas. But standing in his way of a possible fourth Heineken Cup final is one of the best teams in Europe.

Paul O’Connell proved he is ready to be selected for a third British & Irish Lions tour as he guided Munster into their 10th Heineken Cup semi-final with a magnificent man of the match performance at Harlequins.

The trusty boot of Ronan O’Gara came up with 18 points in the 18-12 quarter-final win at the Twickenham Stoop, but it was the all round showing of the 2009 Lions skipper that had everyone, including the three on looking Lions coaches, drooling.

It was only his fifth game back since returning from an operation on his nagging back problem and his seventh in 11 months. But he strode the game like a colossus and ensured the underdogs picked up a record fourth away win in the quarter-finals.

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“I feel very much back in the mix after a game like that. There was a lot of doubt after last week – we felt we threw a bit of a dummy against Glasgow, which wasn’t our intention, and we were a bit down in the week,” said O’Connell.

“To be back involved with it is great. I’ve a little bit to go with my match fitness, but I’m delighted to be back playing and to have come through another match injury free.”

Another player who came through his first match after injury was Ireland wing Simon Zebo, who gave Warren Gatland further reasons to be cheerful at the end of a long weekend of European action.

Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea paid a special tribute to O'Connell after seeing his side kicked out of the tournament after a faultless record in the Pool stages.

"Paul O’Connell was majestic, magnificent – the man behind whom everyone else in the Munster team rallied. He is one of Ireland's greatest locks, if not the greatest, and he showed why," said O'Shea.
 

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