Tuesday 12 December 2017

Joe Schmidt backs Paul O'Connell to thrive in coaching as legend retires​

Paul O'Connell: 'I had a very enjoyable career'. Photo: Sportsfile
Paul O'Connell: 'I had a very enjoyable career'. Photo: Sportsfile

Ruaidhri O'Connor​

Paul O'Connell says he has not made up his mind whether to take up a career in coaching after announcing his retirement from rugby yesterday, but Ireland coach Joe Schmidt believes he has all the attributes needed to be a success if he chooses that route.

The duo have worked closely together over the past two seasons as the Munster legend skippered Schmidt's side to successive Six Nations titles, and the New Zealander said that his captain has left a huge void behind.

O'Connell retired from international rugby after the World Cup, but yesterday he admitted defeat on his move to Toulon as he struggled to overcome the hamstring injury he suffered against France last October.

"You are either going to get back to being fast, strong and powerful again or you are not and that makes the decision for you and you get on with it then," he told RTÉ. "I had a very enjoyable career."

While O'Connell distanced himself from a role with Munster in the immediate future, his statement that "whether it is coaching or something outside of rugby, you have to learn the ropes and serve an apprenticeship" will alert top clubs across Europe to his possibility of him following in the footsteps of Racing 92's Ronan O'Gara, and Schmidt believes he has a lot to offer.

"With the intellectual property he holds, particularly as a lineout player but also as a forward and a breakdown specialist, I think he has a wealth of ability to contribute technically, but also with the character he is he would be incredibly good in a team environment," Schmidt said.

"What hasn't he won? There was a real disappointment that he didn't get to play out the World Cup, but he's won everything else.

"He has made an incredible contribution to Irish rugby and the jersey he leaves behind is going to be incredibly difficult to fill."

Irish Independent

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