Sunday 25 September 2016

Paul O’Connell reveals his plans for the next Lions Tour

Tom Rooney

Published 06/11/2015 | 09:56

Paul O'Connell of the Lions charges upfield during the First Test match between the South African Springboks and the British and Irish Lions at Kings Park Stadium on June 20, 2009 in Durban, South Africa (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Paul O'Connell of the Lions charges upfield during the First Test match between the South African Springboks and the British and Irish Lions at Kings Park Stadium on June 20, 2009 in Durban, South Africa (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

While fallen Ireland captain Paul O’Connell fully intends on recovering from the hamstring injury that ended his World Cup and lining out for his new club Toulon, he believes a trip to New Zealand with Lions in two years time would be a step too far.

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O’Connell tore his hamstring clean off the bone in Ireland’s Pool D victory over France last month and, even after a successful surgery,, could be sidelined for anywhere between four and eight months according to the player himself.

His move to the three-time European Champions in the south of France is still going ahead, though the former Munster captain will be on the recovery table until well into 2016.

O’Connell’s time in an Ireland jersey is over, but it was put to him that if he were to get back to full-fitness, whether or not he’d consider a fourth stint in famed Lions’ red.

“I think it’ll definitely be a no,” he said. “While the last few years have been incredibly enjoyable, it’s always a challenge with my body.

“The challenge is in training; there are certain weights that I just can’t do that other guys can do. There’s a certain amount of time on my feet I can do, but other guys can do more. I just think that could be a little too far for me.”

If O’Connell somehow were to change that line of thought and travel to the home of the world champions, it would neatly round off his time on the international stage.

The towering second row first represented the Lions in the 2005 tour of New Zealand, where Clive Woodward’s outfit were whitewashed 3-0. He then went to South Africa in 2009 as captain, where the world champions prevailed 2-1.

Having missed the 2013 Six Nations, he ruled himself out of the journey to Australia under Warren Gatland, but after a typically inspirational performance for Munster in the Heineken Cup quarter final victory away to Harlequins, the Limerick man was called on again.

He went on to play a pivotal role as the combination side won their first series since 1997. However, in light of his age, the gruesome nature of the injury and the effort it will require to come back, O’Connell believes it would be too big a stretch, even for him.

“My plan had been to come off a really good World Cup pre-season, play in the World Cup, play in those really high intensity games, and go over to Toulon in really good shape and put in a really good season this year.

“Unfortunately now that’s completely changed where I’m going to be rehabbing one of the most difficult injuries I’ve ever had to rehab, and I’m going to be rehabbing it at 36-years of age.

“So that landscape is going to be difficult enough as it is for my body without thinking about a tour down there,” he said

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