Ireland v South Africa
Matfield 'better than when he retired' - O'Connell
ESPN Staff
November 7, 2014
Victor Matfield rise above Alun Wyn Jones at the line out, South Africa v Wales, Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit, June 21, 2014
Victor Matfield rise above Welshman Alun Wyn Jones at the line out © Getty Images

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell has heaped praise on South Africa lock Victor Matfield ahead of the pair's meeting in Dublin on Saturday.

O'Connell believes Matfield is "the best lineout forward in the world" and is better now than before he retired from rugby for two years in 2011.

"To be able to take two years out, come back and be as good as if not better than he ever was is an incredible achievement," said O'Connell. "He still seems to be using pretty much the same system he has used for seven, eight, nine years, the same lineouts, and teams just can't come near him on his ball."

O'Connell praised Matfield's impact since his return to the international game earlier this year, especially in the Springboks landmark victory over New Zealand in Johannesburg last month.

"You see in that New Zealand game the amount of lineouts that South Africa upset all across the board, not just Victor Matfield, but [Duane] Vermeulen as well. I think it contributed massively to the result: if you can't be sure of your own ball when you go to the touch, to start plays or exit from your half of the pitch, it's a really tough way to play the game. I think it's probably something South Africa have been missing in recent years, and he's brought it back with abundance."

Matfield, who extends his records as the most capped and oldest Springbok in his 117th Test at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, praised O'Connell as "the best player I've played against" earlier in the week.

"I was delighted with the compliment he gave me, but it's all irrelevant come tomorrow afternoon," said O'Connell.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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