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London Irish 16:30 Harlequins

Heineken Cup: Paul O'Connell gains plaudits following Munster's win over Harlequins

Last Updated: 08/04/13 8:42am

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Paul O'Connell: Tipped to be a force for the Lions this summer

Paul O'Connell: Tipped to be a force for the Lions this summer

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Paul O'Connell was tipped to make a big impression on the British and Irish Lions tour after inspiring Munster to an 18-12 Heineken Cup quarter-final victory over Harlequins.

The Ireland second-row was named man of the match after leading Munster's merciless second-half onslaught to down the English champions, with veteran fly-half Ronan O'Gara kicking all the points.

O'Gara landed four penalties in the first 16 minutes of the second half - six in total - to overturn a 9-6 deficit and earn Munster a semi-final against Clermont Auvergne in Montpellier.

O'Connell, hailed by Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea as arguably the greatest Ireland lock ever, only returned to action from back surgery two weeks ago.

Munster coach Rob Penney expects him to be back to his peak just in time for the Lions Test series against Australia.

"He hasn't played a lot recently and he will get better with more game-time. I suspect that by late June and early July, he will be humming," Penney said.

"He is great isn't it? Everyone speaks about him in glowing terms and so they should. First and foremost he is a wonderful man.

"He has this empathetic outlook on life, he sees things through other people's eyes, and he has this understanding that makes everyone feel good to be around him.

Complete man

"You couple that with his rugby ability and he is just a really complete man. Munster have fed off him for a long period off him."

"He is great isn't it? Everyone speaks about him in glowing terms and so they should. First and foremost he is a wonderful man."
Rob Penney

"The better side won," O'Shea admitted. "They won the breakdowns and the collisions and we are bitterly disappointed.

"We have to take a bit of time but I said to the guys that they have to learn from the journey that Munster went on (before winning their first Heineken Cup title).

"Sometimes you are driven by that hurt. We did not play the way we could today. We were not allowed to play because Munster bossed the second half.

"I thought Paul O'Connell was absolutely majestic. The whole team was physical but he was the totem that the whole team just rose around.

"He is arguably one of the greatest second rows if not the greatest second row that Ireland has ever produced.

"He was absolutely magnificent and as the team rallied around him you could see he was the focal point."

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