The Rugby Club discuss Paul O'Connell's Lions chances and what Munster need to do to beat Harlequins

Last Updated: 05/04/13 1:16pm

The Rugby Club discuss Paul O'Connell's Lions chances and what Munster must do to beat Harlequins this weekend.

O'Connell who toured New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions in 2005 and then captained them in South Africa in 2009 knows that his chances of making it a full house of Lions tours is slim.

The lock has played just three times for Munster since a back operation kept him out of Ireland's Six Nations campaign and he needs Munster to at least make the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup to press his chances. But Munster are not having the best of seasons though and head to the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday to face Harlequins in the quarter-finals.

Scott Quinnell, Dean Ryan and Stuart Barnes believe that O'Connell has plenty to do if he is to catch Warren Gatland's eye

"O'Connell has got to play well," explained Quinnell. "He has got to go out there against Harlequins and do what Paul O'Connell does. He is one of those iconic players - whether that is for Munster, for Ireland or for the Lions, he is a man that people follow.

"Whether he is captain or not, if he is on the field then people do not look for anyone else. He reminds me a lot of Martin Johnson in the fact that he is a presence and understands what he has to do and he encourages other people around him to do their jobs at their very best as well. Paul O'Connell has that type of respect and will be able to change the way Munster play on the park and not wait until halftime or fulltime.

"He is very lucky that Munster have got through to this quarter-final because it has given him a platform to play well an impress Gatland."


Ryan believes that one game is not enough for O'Connell and says that Munster need O'Connell to drag them back to their strengths.

"The key is that he has got to keep Munster in this tournament," he explained.

"I don't think one game is enough for him. Munster have got to win this game and go to the semi-final. Under Rob Penney, Munster have been evolving a new style of play; a Crusaders-type style.

"I think the presence of O'Connell has got to drag them back a couple of years. They have to get back to the some of the basics that really put them at the top of their game.

"They are not a side that is equipped for Europe under the new philosophy. They need to find some of that intensity that they had in those back-to-back games against Saracens. To do that they have to play on a narrower front and it has got to have Paul O'Connell right at the front of it."

Barnes agrees: "Saracens beat Harlequins by hitting the breakdowns, they played a narrow game, kept the ball and stopped Harlequins playing their patterns, so there is a template for them to beat Quins.

"If Munster go wide like they tried to do against Ulster last year, then Quins will do to Munster what Ulster did to them. If they play like they did against Saracens then they have a chance."