Six Nations 2015: Ireland's Joe Schmidt lauds Paul O'Connell
|Six Nations 2015: Wales v Ireland|
|Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Date: 14 March, 2015 Kick-off: 14:30 GMT|
|Coverage: Live on BBC One, HD, Red Button, BBC Radio Wales, Radio Ulster, Radio 5 live, online, mobile, the BBC Sport app and Connected TV.|
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has hailed Paul O'Connell's leadership as the skipper prepares to play his 100th game for his country in Saturday's vital Six Nations encounter against Wales.
O'Connell will equal exactly Mick Galwey's record as Ireland's oldest Test captain at 35 years and 145 days.
"There's a part of Paul that would love to play forever but he's pretty excited about right now too," said Schmidt.
"He's been a fantastic leader and we've got a group who lead with him."
Fly-half Johnny Sexton is fit to win his 50th Ireland cap after hamstring trouble as Schmidt's side bid to close in on the Grand Slam.
Prop Cian Healy will also win his 50th cap if he is used from the bench at the Millennium Stadium as the side aim to set a new record for their country of 11 successive Test wins.
Schmidt insists he has no doubts about fly-half Sexton's fitness, although Munster number 10 Ian Keatley is expected to travel with the squad to Cardiff as precautionary cover.
"Johnny's had a very good run into the game, and he's had no problems right through that," said Schmidt.
"I guess you'll worry about all the players, about some returning from injury and if they get a knock and get compromised.
"You can't calculate for that, but you can make sure you have the cover prepared and ready to go."
However, Sexton's importance to the Irish cannot be over-stated as demonstrated by how their kicking game lapsed after the Racing Metro star had to be replaced by Ian Madigan in the second half of the 19-9 win over England.
Another British & Irish Lions star, Jamie Heaslip, will also start after missing the win over England because of three cracked vertebrae.