O'Connell says honesty is best policy with former Ireland team-mates

Dublin (AFP) –


New Ireland forwards coach Paul O'Connell says he hopes being honest with the Irish internationals he played with will prevent any tension creeping into their relationship.

The 41-year-old former Ireland and Munster captain admitted it had been a surprise when head coach Andy Farrell rang to ask him to come on board.

O'Connell said it had taken a few weeks for him to decide but he agreed in January, believing he can help Ireland in their Six Nations bid.

The former powerhouse in the second row, who won 108 caps for Ireland, will bring invaluable experience, especially to the lineout, which was found wanting at times last year.

O'Connell retired from Test rugby after the 2015 World Cup but several players remain from that era including prop Cian Healy and flanker Peter O'Mahony.

"There will be challenges down the line and difficult conversations with the players," O'Connell said on Tuesday.

"I just want to be honest with them and if you are wrong hold your hand up and build a big coach-player relationship.

"I want to deliver as much honest feedback as possible and be myself in delivering it, not try to be someone else."

O'Connell said he felt he could "add value" as he had retired relatively recently compared with other members of the coaching staff.

"You could say it is a weakness but also a strength as I have more recent experience of knowing how a player feels and learns and how hard it is to adapt to new teachings," he said.

Farrell will also be looking to the former British and Irish Lions lock, who has previous coaching experience with the Ireland Under 20s and Top 14 side Stade Francais, to improve the lineout.

"I certainly hope I will have an impact on the lineout," said O'Connell. "A big part of the lineout is experience and to have a feel of what happens before it happens.

"We had a few high-profile lineout losses last year, five metres from the opposition's tryline but generally I feel it has been at a pretty high level."

Ireland forwards Caelan Doris and Quinn Roux look certain to miss Sunday's Six Nations opener against Wales after returning to their provinces for medical assessment.

Ireland finished third in the 2020 Six Nations, behind champions England and France.