Paul O’Connell was the hero of the hour as Munster booked their quarterfinal place in the Heineken Cup with a 20-7 win away to Gloucesteron Saturday.
Tries by wing Keith Earls and skipper Peter O’Mahony and 10 points from the boot of fly-half Ian Keatley sent Munster into their 15th Heineken quarterfinal.
And even Gloucester boss Nigel Davies was blown away by O’Connell’s performance in the second row.
“Paul O’Connell is phenomenal. There are certain characters in teams that have a huge influence and effect. It is not just his ability as a rugby player, it’s how he galvanizes the team, and his sheer presence is a huge factor for Munster,” Davies said.
Munster head coach Rob Penney concurred. “Paul is just such an amazing character, and at this level of the game you wouldn’t want anyone else out there, really, guarding your ship,” he offered.
Munster will probably secure a home quarterfinal if they beat Edinburgh at Thomond Park on Saturday in their final pool fixture.
Out-half Keatley came in for special praise from his coach after the Gloucester win.
Penney added, “We have got a lot of faith in Ian. He was tremendous today, probably the best game he has had in the red jumper. He deserves all the plaudits that I hope he gets.
“He showed mental and physical fortitude out there. He tackled like a Trojan, and he put us in some really good places on the park.”