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Schmidt's vision can bring more glory: O'Connell

By Nick Purewal

Joe Schmidt's crucial "clarity" will allow Ireland to realise their Rugby World Cup 2015 potential after landing the RBS 6 Nations title, according to captain Paul O'Connell.

Talismanic lock O'Connell said head coach Schmidt's visionary management was pivotal to Ireland turning their fifth-place Six Nations finish in 2013 on its head.

Ireland clinched this year's title with Saturday's 22-20 triumph over France in Paris and is the latest in a string of notable successes on Schmidt's coaching CV, which also includes one Ranfurly Shield win, two Heineken Cups, the Pro12 league title, an Amlin Challenge Cup and a French Top 14.

And 34-year-old Munster totem O'Connell was keen to hail Schmidt's methods after celebrating his first international victory on French soil, believing the New Zealander's attention to detail frees up Ireland's stars to perform, no matter what pressure.

"I've been going to Paris since I was 22 and that's my first win," said O'Connell, already eyeing next autumn's World Cup in England.

"Joe's had a massive impact, no doubt. It was a poor, disappointing, frustrating season last year, albeit injury-plagued as well.

"He's brought what you'd hear Leinster players saying for the last few years.

"He's brought real clarity, a very effective way of rucking and people are in no doubt of their role.

"I just think when you have a good team and you can give players that kind of clarity, it allows them to be good players.

"He instils a lot of confidence in those around him with his philosophy, his strategy and his detail.

"It gives the younger guys in the squad a winning habit and that's important with the challenges ahead, especially leading into the World Cup. We've got to harness that confidence and belief in that build-up now, to give ourselves every chance."

Meanwhile, Ireland and England predictably dominate this season's short-list for RBS 6 Nations Player of the Championship.

Favourite Mike Brown is joined by England team-mates Danny Care, Owen Farrell and Chris Robshaw, while Ireland provide Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney, Brian O'Driscoll, Jonathan Sexton and Andrew Trimble.

The list is completed by Wales back-row pair Sam Warburton and Taulupe Faletau, Scotland number eight David Denton, French backs Brice Dulin and Yoann Huget, plus Italy hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini.

Players have been nominated following a points-scoring system covering a number of categories and the winner will be decided by a public vote. Voting closes at midnight on Wednesday.

* Ruan Pienaar has been ruled out of Ulster's RaboDirect Pro12 trip to Edinburgh on Saturday.

The Springbok ace has failed to recover from the shoulder injury he picked up in last Friday's win over Scarlets at Ravenhill.

Loosehead Callum Black, who picked up an ankle knock in the same game will undergo an MRI scan later in the week to determine the extent of the injury.

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