Former Ireland head coach Eddie O’Sullivan has described Andy Farrell’s decision to bring Paul O’Connell into his coaching team as “probably the smartest decision” he has made.
The Ireland and Munster great was drafted into the coaching team in January as forwards coach in a swift effort to address an area of weakness in the autumn. Not only was the lineout ropey in 2020, but the Irish forwards were shown to be outmuscled by England at Twickenham.
But after dismantling Scotland’s lineout at Murrayfield on Sunday to pave the way for a 27-24 win, it is impossible to ignore O’Connell’s growing influence. Scotland won only 25 percent of their lineouts, which is so far below what is expected in international rugby that it is miraculous that they could remain in the contest.
By moving Tadhg Beirne into the back row to accompany the 1.96m/ 6ft 5in Will Connors on the other flank, Ireland have effectively designed a pack for aerial domination, and that was the case in Edinburgh. But their success at the breakdown suggests O’Connell’s impact extends beyond simply the lineout.
Farrell’s tenure as coach has not lasted that long, but this was an astute move that has paid off. O’Sullivan is right to view this as the smartest decision so far, but it could prove to be one of the most decisive appointments when looking back on his time in charge in years to come.
“Bringing in Paul O’Connell as line-out coach is probably the smartest decision Andy Farrell has made since he took over.”
Bringing in Paul O'Connell as line-out coach is probably the smartest decision Andy Farrell has made since he took over.
— Eddie O'Sullivan (@TheRealEddieOS) March 14, 2021
Though the prospect of recruiting a centurion and Irish legend was always going to be popular amongst fans given the reputation he forged throughout his career, it was also met with reservation given his coaching record at that point, which had not been as glittering as his playing record. But O’Connell has proved many of those doubters wrong already.
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