George Hook: If I was Paul O'Connell, I'd move for the money!
Broadcaster George Hook has said it would have been "crass" of the IRFU to hold Paul O'Connell to his contract and joked he'd move abroad for the money if he was in the Ireland captain's position.
The IRFU cleared the way for the Munster legend to complete his €1.2m move to Toulon by agreeing to release the Ireland captain from his contract after this year's World Cup campaign comes to an end.
The Munster second-row will retire from international rugby at the end of that tournament, and the union cited the 101-times-capped Ireland international's "exceptional service" in their reasoning behind the decision to release him from his contract nine months early to facilitate the move.
Speaking in relation to the second row's expected move to France, Hook said a career finale abroad makes financial sense and that O'Connell has earned the right to go.
"You have to look at it from Paul's point of view," he told independent.ie. "He's a professional rugby player coming towards the end of his career. He has an opportunity for a very good pay-day for two years."
"I'd wish him well. He has given an enormous amount to Munster and Ireland, and particularly Munster in the recent past.
"If you look at Munster over the last couple of years, they've lost so many key players. O'Connell has really kept it going in my opinion. He has been terribly important to them."
A player of O'Connell's stature would place silverware ahead of financial gain, but the prospect of a bumper contract, for the tail end of his career is something that would be difficult to resist Hook suggests.
"If I were Paul O'Connell, I'd be doing it for the money, but if you go to Toulon you have a pretty good chance of picking up a trophy as well," he said.
"That's what professionals do in the modern era.
"I wouldn't criticise them for attempting to make a reasonable payday."
After toying with the idea of a move abroad, O'Connell met with IRFU officials to secure an early release.
Hook argues that after leading Ireland to back-to-back Six Nations titles and given exemplary service during his 101 international caps, the union couldn't stand in the way of their talisman leaving.
"I think it would have been very crass of the IRFU to have kept him to his contract. To turn around to somebody who has given so much to Munster and Ireland, they had to let him go.
"I'd have no doubt about that."