Former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell has joined the Ireland national coaching group as forwards coach with Simon Easterby switching to focus on defence.

The move was announced this morning and will take effect with immediate effect ahead of Ireland’s first game in the Guinness Six Nations away to Wales on February 7th.

O’Connell was capped 108 times for Ireland and captained the team to Six Nations success in 2014. He also made seven Test match appearances for the British & Ireland Lions across three tours and won two Heineken Cup titles with Munster.

Since retiring from playing in 2015, he has held coaching positions with the Munster Academy, Ireland Under-20s and Top 14 side Stade Francais.

“Paul is a young Irish coach with a huge amount of international rugby experience,” said IRFU High-Performance Director David Nucifora.

“We have been keen to find the right opportunity for him within Irish rugby and we think the fit with the national squad will work well. He joins the national coaching group with immediate effect as they prepare for the upcoming Guinness Six Nations Championships.”

“I am really looking forward to working with Andy and the rest of the coaching group,” said O’Connell.

“I worked with Simon as a player and am looking forward to working with him again.”

“It’s an exciting young group of players to be involved with and there are talented forwards coming through across the four provinces that will no doubt be pushing for international selection in the coming months and years.”

O’Connell has been an active brand ambassador with Aldi and Pinergy in recent years. Aldi is a full retail partner of the IRFU so there should be no barrier to that continuing but no confirmation has been made one way or another yet. His other engagements may need to be adapted given his new role though appearances without official IRFU branding should still be allowed.

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