Ireland home farewell for O’Connell

Paul O’Connell will bid an emotional farewell to Lansdowne Road when he leads Ireland on home soil for the last time against Wales in a World Cup warm-up match on Saturday.

The Munster and British and Irish Lions captain is already secured of a place alongside the likes of Brian O’Driscoll as a modern-day icon of Irish rugby after 102 Test appearances in the emerald green jersey.

Yet the 35-year-old colossus from Limerick will finally succumb to the inevitable and call-time on his international career following the World Cup, before joining European champions Toulon.

So while there is importance enough upon this latest World Cup warm-up game, the last for both countries before final squads are named next week, there is a flood of sentiment as well.

“Paul is pretty handy in terms of keeping his emotions in check, he knows what works for him,” said Ireland defence coach Les Kiss.

“I’ve coached him for seven years now and I speak on behalf of the other coaches when I say that he’s an inspiration.

“He deserves a good send-off and hopefully we can deliver that.”

Concussion has once again become a hot topic in the build up to this game, with George North set to return after an enforced five-month lay-off.

The Wales wing has not played since he suffered his third concussion in the space of four months during an English Premiership game for Northampton.

North had previously suffered similar injuries after clashing heads in games against both Australia and England.

“George has had a few issues with knocks to the head but hopefully he has put that behind him,” said Wales coach Warren Gatland.

“We’ve been very conservative with his recovery because his welfare has been paramount. We have had to make sure George is right because we know that his career could be at risk if he suffers one or two more serious knocks,” the New Zealander added.

“But we’ve had two pretty full-on training sessions and I have no doubt he will be up to speed.”

Both countries field far stronger teams than met in Cardiff three weeks ago, when Six Nations champions Ireland won 35-21.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has made nine changes, including the recall of half-backs Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray, as well as selecting Luke Fitzgerald in a new-look midfield.

Wales have re-called Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts and Alun Wyn Jones, who captains the team in place of Sam Warburton, rested with a shoulder injury.

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