"Ireland can win the World Cup" - Paul O'Connell reckons Schmidt's boys can go all the way
Paulie's feeling confident.
Paul O'Connell – Irish Rugby legend and widely regarded as one of the sport's finest ambassadors – is certain that Ireland can win the World Cup next year
Speaking on Mario’s Sunday Roast on Today FM this week, the Limerick-native said: “They (Ireland) are definitely the second best team right now in the world."
“I think sometimes in the ranking you can get a little bit lucky, but you look at their record over the last few years against the southern hemisphere teams, they are definitely the second best team in the world.”
“I suppose New Zealand, without a shadow of a doubt, are the best team in the world, and can we beat them on a given day? Certainly, we can," the former Munster skipper continued.
"Can the other teams around us beat them on a given day? Certainly they can. If you look at South Africa (who won the World Cup in 2007) they might have been ranked number four in the world. They didn’t have to play the teams ranked numbers one, two or three throughout the whole competition, they knocked each other out.”
“I’m not saying we’re going to need that to happen but if we play New Zealand we can certainly beat them and we can beat any of the teams that do beat them as well in the competition."
O'Connell picked up the Hibernia College IRUPA Players' Player of the Year Award in Dublin back in 2015, just months before Ireland was sent crashing out of the 2015 World Cup by Argentina (20-43) in a quarter-final which saw the undoing of Joe Schmidt's team.
When asked if he would consider becoming Ireland’s Head Coach, O’Connell told Mario Rosenstock: “I think you’d have to have a lot of experience to do that job, and you’d need to take a whole lot of steps first."
However, we can't rule it out entirely, as the 38-year-old added that if those steps were taken, he would one day “certainly maybe”, take the top job in Irish rugby.
Ireland’s third most-capped player was forced to retire early following an injury he sustained during Ireland’s last World Cup bid.
While O’Connell was being stretchered off the pitch he made a small gesture indicating he was OK, which was something O’Connell was forced into doing.
However, he explained to Mario Rosenstock why players are asked to do this, “I would look at people when they were going off and they would do that little wave. I would always look at them, saying 'why are they doing that?”
“I had never been stretchered off, that’s the only time… but what they do is, the doctor tells you ‘when the camera comes on you to give a thumbs up for your family who may be watching on TV.
"My doctor said to me ‘Paul when you come on the big screen there you just give the thumbs up for your family at home to let them know you’re fine, that’s why people do that… so I eventually agreed to do it.”
Finally, O'Connell said, since retiring, he says that having a purpose – as opposed to the game itself – is something he still yearns for.
“We had a great sense of purpose when we were playing, you’re constantly on, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," he said.
"I miss that but I don’t massively miss the game, I had my time, I really didn’t think I’d end up playing until I was 35 so I got as much as I could out of it”.
The 2019 Rugby World Cup will be the ninth Rugby World Cup, to be held in Japan from September 20 to November 2.
Catch the full interview on Mario’s Sunday Roast, Today FM on Sunday, 29 July from 11am.