Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Paul O'Connell: 'It's Great to be Somewhere Different'

Photo Independent
Set to earn his 100th test cap in Resistencia on Saturday Paul O'Connell has, knowingly or not, provided support for Argentina hosting a Rugby World Cup. O'Connell has played in three Rugby World Cups and is set to appear in his fourth next year when Ireland face Canada in the opening match of Pool D. Despite it being England 2015 the match is not going to be played in England. Rather it will be played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Ireland is also going to play its pool match against France in Wales not England.   

Wales is a nation very familiar to O'Connell and to Irish rugby players and followers in general. Every two years Ireland plays a Six Nations match at the Millennium Stadium and each Irish province plays four Rabo Direct Pro 12 league matches in Wales every season. O'Connell even has a Heineken Cup title won playing against Biarritz at the Millennium Stadium.

England is also very close in both rugby terms and historically and the Irish test team plays at Twickenham every two years. Ireland is to play two pool matches in London but at Wembley Stadium and the Olympic Stadium rather than at Twickenham. Should Ireland advance from the pool it will then play a Quarter Final in Cardiff. 

Ireland is therefore to play exclusively in the English and Welsh capitals in the World Cup. There will be no matches in big English cities also hosting matches such as Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester or Newcastle and nor will there be matches in the rugby strongholds of Exeter, Gloucester or Leicester. O'Connell and his teammates are therefore not going to have new test experiences comparable to playing in Rotorua in 2011, in Bordeaux in 2007 or in Adelaide in 2003. 

The thirty-four year old Irish second-rower and captain commented on his delight of touring Argentina on Irish Rugby TV in saying ''It's Great. I've never been here before. You know, in a lot of these summer tours you go to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa. You stay in cities, you play in grounds you've played in before, cities you've been in before and hotels you've probably been in before so this is all new. It's great to be somewhere different and to have a different challenge.'' 

Similar to being involved in touring to represent ones country at international level a hand full of locations having World Cups in repeated places is not desirable. Argentina has the history and capability to host Rugby World Cup 2023. Players would be exposed to cities that have never before hosted a Rugby World Cup and also to cities spread far and wide from Buenos Aires to Mendoza, Rosario to Resistencia and Córdoba to Salta. 

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