Friday 30 September 2016

Paul O'Connell: World Cup won't alter my retirement plans

Ireland rugby captain admits he never thought still be playing at 35

Published 14/05/2015 | 02:30

Ireland captain Paul O’Connell fends off retirement talk, insisting ‘I’m glad to be still playing’
Ireland captain Paul O’Connell fends off retirement talk, insisting ‘I’m glad to be still playing’

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell has revealed that his retirement decision will not be based on whether or not Munster or Ireland are successful - and admitted that he never thought he would still be playing at 35.

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Speaking exclusively to the Irish Independent before picking up the Hibernia College IRUPA Players' Player of the Year Award in Dublin last night, O'Connell said that at one stage he thought he would be retired at "31 or 32".

"I definitely didn't think I'd be on stage picking up an award like this at this time in my life," said Ireland's Six Nations-winning captain.

"At 27 or 28, I definitely thought I'd be retired at 31 or 32, something like that. I never thought I'd be still here playing at this stage, never mind picking up this award."

Paul O'Connell
Paul O'Connell

As to his still-undecided playing future - despite interest from Toulon, O'Connell has a contract with the IRFU until 2016 but has hinted he may retire after the World Cup - the second-row says neither the outcome of Munster's Pro12 campaign nor Ireland's World Cup bid will influence his choice.

"Winning or losing won't affect my decision," insists the highly decorated Munster captain. "Maybe you can make decisions in terms of picking up silverware but it is a dangerous way to go about making a decision.

"I wouldn't base my decision on that. A whole lot of things go into it and winning trophies isn't one of them.

"It is amazing to think what has been packed into that time. Sometimes you only remember the hard times. But when you put it in terms of achievements, you kind of go, 'Crikey, it was actually a great period'.

"I've persevered if nothing else. I've had some bad injuries, some of which have changed the way I've trained and which then have changed the way I play. I hope it's all an advertisement for perseverance if nothing else."

Read more: 'I'm playing under a lot less pressure'

Munster and Ireland's Paul O'Connell, left, and Ulster and Ireland's Tommy Bowe in attendance at the Hibernia College IRUPA Rugby Player Awards 2015
Munster and Ireland's Paul O'Connell, left, and Ulster and Ireland's Tommy Bowe in attendance at the Hibernia College IRUPA Rugby Player Awards 2015

Meanwhile, the IRFU were also celebrating after being awarded the 2017 Women's World Cup - although it will cost them €1.5m to do so, with another €1m being granted by World Rugby.

"There's no financial benefit for us in this," according to IRFU CEO Philip Browne. "There's a significant financial cost,"

Cross-border Government funding is likely for the event which will see pool games staged at UCD while semi-finals and the final will take place at Queen's and Ulster Rugby's Kingspan Stadium.

The IRFU hope that the staging can provide a bellwether of its chances of hosting the men's equivalent in 2023 despite stiff opposition from South Africa.

"It's obviously in the back of our minds that we have to make it work if we want to be successful in the 2023 bid," said Browne who believes cross-border co-operation is key to the IRFU's approach.

"It was important that this was not only hosted in Dublin, but in Belfast. We're a 32-county sport and it gives us a great opportunity to showcase what we can do as an organisation."

"I have no doubt that we'll be watched very carefully in how we perform in terms of putting this together and making it work.

Ireland captain Niamh Briggs, who captained this season's Six Nations-winning side, now wants to win the title on home soil.

"It is great news to hear Ireland has been successful in its bid to host the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup.

"It is an honour to represent your country in a World Cup, and the idea of representing your county on home turf is unbelievable."

Read more: Paul O'Connell on Six Nations win: First time I ever won a trophy while drinking a pint of Tennents

Read more: 'I'm playing under a lot less pressure'

Irish Independent

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