O’Connell just as excited as in 2003

Date published: September 17 2015

Paul O'Connell knows plenty about the Rugby World Cup but he's just as excited ahead of his fourth tournament in England.

The Ireland captain and his side face Canada in their opening match in Cardiff on Saturday.

Speaking to the media after arriving in the Welsh capital, O'Connell described how it felt to be involved again in rugby's biggest competition.

"The excitement is just as high, massively," he said.

"It’s probably very different when I went in ’03, I was a young guy and didn’t have any pressures that some of the senior players probably had at that tournament – certainly around the Argentina game and what qualification meant financially to the union and things like that.

“I went there having had a good summer in the tour of Samoa and Tonga and was delighted to get picked – really enjoyed the tournament and the senior players of the tour took on a lot of the pressure, but for me it was a very different experience to what it is now."

“Yesterday, coming over from Ireland, we were like a bunch of guys going on a school tour – very giddy flight and bus trip to the hotel. The preparations have gone really well for the team and myself – I haven’t missed many training sessions, which is great."

“It’s nice to get here and it’s nice to get here in good shape, having played a few games and having trained for 10 or 11 weeks."

“The excitement is massive, probably more than the first one because I know there is no more to come.”

O'Connell also hailed the Irish supporters, crediting them for Ireland's success four years ago in New Zealand when they defeated Australia in the group stage.

"One of the big things about four years ago at the World Cup was what the Irish fans provided for us in terms of atmosphere and support, which made it an incredible experience for us.

"It has been similar in the Aviva (Stadium) in recent years and one of the big hopes for us is that they bring that over this time."

“The fact that there were so many people travelling down in Australia and New Zealand meant there was a lot of Irish and there was a big party atmosphere, which is one of the big memories of the tournament for a lot of the lads, and hopefully that can be replicated in the next few games.”