O’Connell talks Lions hype

Paul O'Connell says the build up to the Lions' summer tour of Hong Kong and Australia is bigger than anything that has gone before. [more]

O’Connell talks Lions hype

Paul O’Connell says the build up to the Lions’ summer tour of Hong Kong and Australia is bigger than anything that has gone before.

Britain and Ireland’s elite head south for a 10-match adventure at the end of May and the man who led the Lions four years ago has been taken aback by the extent of interest from across all four Home Unions.

"I've never seen more hype and speculation about a tour in all my life than this Lions selection," O'Connell, who has only just returned from a back problem that threatened to wreck his tour hopes, told the Guardian.

"I'd love to be on the plane but I'm trying to ignore the speculation.

"I'd love to go but it's a tough situation when you're coming back and you didn't play in the autumn or in the Six Nations. I suppose the line I'm peddling is that I'm going to be fresh!

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"I've played five and a half games this season, so freshness is my selling point at the moment!"

O’Connell certainly hasn’t looked rusty since making his long awaited comeback for Munster’s second-string side on March 12 and it would be a surprise if Lions coach Warren Gatland hasn’t taken note.

Gatland admitted that the veteran second row was very much on his radar despite his lengthy absence and his performances in games such as the Heineken Cup quarter-final win at Harlequins will have likely enhanced his chances of a third successive tour.

And if he does get the nod when Gatland announces his squad a week today, O’Connell will be desperate to build on the good work of his class of 2009 but with once crucial addition to the formula – series success.

"The 2009 result was heartbreaking but it was such an enjoyable tour," added O’Connell.

"We worked very hard at becoming a team – socialising quite a bit together – and the way the management brought us together was very astute.

"I was proud of my team because it was probably the most intense rugby of my life. Some of the best players in the world were really playing great and, emotionally, it meant so much to both teams. We came so close."

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