Wednesday 28 September 2016

Keith Wood: Paul O'Connell was envious of Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon move

Published 27/05/2015 | 21:03

Paul O’Connell is applauded off the field by the Thomond Park crowd after playing his last home game for Munster last weekend.
Paul O’Connell is applauded off the field by the Thomond Park crowd after playing his last home game for Munster last weekend.

A career-ending move to Toulon would bring a different kind of pressure for Paul O'Connell, but would be an intriguing opportunity for the Ireland captain says Keith Wood.

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The Guinness PRO12 Final against Glasgow Warriors this weekend will bring the curtain down on a glittering provincial career and speculation surrounds the next move of the rugby legend.

The Limerick-native admitted after the semi-final victory over the Ospreys that the game was his final one in Thomond Park in Munster colours, and it remains to be seen whether he will bow out after the World Cup or if he will decide on a career finale in France.

Toulon lead the charge for the towering lock and former Munster hooker Keith Wood says that his former team-mate watched on with interest how Jonny Wilkinson rejuvenated his career with a move to the Top 14 giants in 2009. He believes a move to Mourad Boudjellal's bank-rolled side could be a "liberation" from the pressures of being the focus of attention for Munster.

"He's a guy who loves the south of France, he got married in the south of France," he told Newstalk's Off The Ball programme tonight. "He enjoys the place, he enjoys the culture.

"I know he was envious of what Jonny [Wilkinson] got out of it, not in terms of the finances. Of course the finances are always part of it, but it was almost like the fresh breath of energy he got back into it.

Paul O’Connell salutes the Munster supporters at Thomond Park
Paul O’Connell salutes the Munster supporters at Thomond Park

"The character of the like of Paul O'Connell doesn't come around it too often if we're to be honest, he has an opportunity to continue doing the game he loves with a lot less pressure on him. I know it's a big pressure none the less as it's a huge team, but a different type of pressure.

"An ideal situation for him would be to end out every game for 30 minutes of every single game if he so wanted. Knowing Paul he'd want to play in 80 minutes in every game, but they don't do that in France.

"That's an intriguing idea."

O'Connell's final games in a red jersey have come about in a very under-stated fashion, only telling the media after the Ospreys victory that he would be finishing with his native province after the weekend.

Wood says it is the perfect finale from O'Connell's perspective.

"I would say that the fact he didn't talk up last week prior to the match in Thomond Park is entirely in keeping to the sort of guy he is," he added.

"He'd be offended and disturbed by the fact that it would be all about him in Thomond Park. He's always been that kind of guy."

Wood, a Munster team-mate of O'Connell for the 1999/2000 season, says it is a sharp contrast to Brian O'Driscoll's send-off last season.

"Brian dealt with it incredibly comfortably and didn't mind that there was a 'bru-ha'. He could dealt with it fine.

"Paul doesn't like to have a discussion about it all. It just doesn't sit comfortably with him."

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