It’s safe to say that Paul O’Connell had an extremely successful career playing rugby, but the big man does have some regrets over how he approached the game.
The Munster and Ireland legend was world-renowned during his day, leading both his club and country into battle on numerous occasions, as well as captaining the British and Irish Lions in their 2009 tour to South Africa.
O’Connell was lauded for his passion and “manic aggression”, but the Limerick man admitted that his competitive nature put himself under great strain for much of his career.
“I think sometimes, and a lot of players and sportspeople do it, I made the game a lot more important than it was really. I made it into life or death really and now that I am retired and I am out of the game and I have three kids, I see that it wasn’t.
“I definitely put too much pressure on myself. On a Friday before big games I would often be…I’d almost be happy to get on a plane and leave the country rather than face the game I was going to play,” O’Connell told France 24.
The benefits of good coaching.
O’Connell was recently announced as Ireland’s new forwards coach, joining Andy Farrell’s coaching team ahead of the 2021 Six Nations Championship.
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The test-cap centurion revealed how he learned how to deal with pressure better thanks to coaches and sports psychologists later on in his career, and will hope he can provide the current Ireland crop with some perspective.
“Towards the end, I was very much on top of that – I had some great coaches, sports psychologists that work with us down through the years and I got my preparation better and I began to enjoy it.
“It probably took a lot of the focus on winning out of my preparation and put a lot of focus on being as good as I could be with what I had. And when that shift in focus happened I started to enjoy the game a lot more.
“I think I became a better leader and a better team-mate and I got a lot more satisfaction out of the game and I started probably playing better as well,” O’Connell explained.