Paul O'Connell: Any player who wants to play for Ireland has no business playing abroad
Paul O'Connell says Irish players who want to play at the top level "have no business" plying their trade in France or for any other clubs outside of Ireland.
The Toulon-bound second-row, who has retired from international rugby, believes that the conditions afforded by the IRFU allow players perform to their best for their country.
And he pointed to the experience of Johnny Sexton, who makes his first European appearance for Leinster since returning from France against Wasps tomorrow, as an example of the drawbacks of leaving.
"I don't think any player who still wants to play rugby for Ireland or wants to play well has any business playing in France or playing abroad. You get very well looked after when you play here with the provinces," O'Connell said at the Irish Independent Property Industry Excellence awards.
"When we play the Six Nations it's a format of two games on, one weekend off, one game on, one weekend off, and then two games on. The last two seasons, those two weekends off were a good opportunity to recover and rest not just physically but also mentally.
"Johnny was always flying back to play a game against Clermont or play really hard games. It's great that he's back. He's an incredible player. He's not just a great player, he's a great guy. Everyone looks up to him. Even the old guys look up to him. It's great Ireland have brought him back."
O'Connell, who won't be able to take part in his new club's quest to retain the Champions Cup for another four to five months as he recovers from surgery, said Ireland could not blame their World Cup exit on the unavailability of so many key men against Argentina.
"It was disappointing. We gave them too much of a lead at the start. The lads did brilliantly to come back but unfortunately it just wasn't enough," he said.
"It's frustrating when you're in the stands, especially when you're on the pitch the week before. I find it much easier on the pitch than watching from the stands but it's disappointing and unfortunate but fair play to Argentina. They were excellent.
"We were at our full complement. You're going to have injuries throughout a competition and you send your strongest team out and they have to do a job. I think that team was good enough to do the job unfortunately we just gave them too much of a lead."