Sunday 16 June 2019

Paul O'Connell on his Toulon change of heart and ending his Irish career after World Cup

Ireland's Paul O'Connell during squad training today. Sportsground, Galway. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
Ireland's Paul O'Connell during squad training today. Sportsground, Galway. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell won't be available to Ireland in an injury crisis and is adamant that his international career will end after this autumn's Rugby World Cup.

This season's Six Nations player of the championship insisted that his final game in green will come at the World Cup at the launch of Ireland new jersey for the tournament in Galway.

“I’d say for two years I have been fairly sure that I was going to retire after the World Cup. There were times when I felt I might go again and play for Ireland a little bit further, or Munster a little bit further, but by and large it has been a done deal in my head that I would be retiring after the World Cup from both Munster and Ireland," he said.

"The World Cup will certainly be the end of my Irish rugby career.

" I don't think I'll be needed on the phone. We've got great strength in depth there."

O'Connell also revealed that he turned down French giants Toulon last December when he spoke to their strength and conditioning coach Paul Stridgeon but as time went on the lure of the chance to move to France was too much.

“There was a thing in a paper in France that Pau were interested in me. I never spoke to Pau or heard anything from them but that sparked a bit of interest from some clubs in France and I got some contact from Paul Stridgeon the S&C coach in Toulon, who was on the Lions and who I would be quite friendly with," he added.

“He asked me would I be interested. I said I hadn’t really thought about it. I said, ‘give me a bit of time and I’ll get back to you’. I actually got back to him after Christmas and said, ‘look it is not for me. I am going to fully retire after the World Cup’. I was very happy with that decision.

“Once I told him (Stridgeon) that there was a small bit of regret that snuck in. About a month or five weeks later I got another text message that they (Toulon) were about to move on another player and asked again would I be interested (in moving to France) and to let them know.

“I chatted with Emily (his wife) a little bit about it. The body at the time was feeling really good. I just said to them, ‘look I would be interested but I can’t talk to a club while I am playing for Munster unfortunately, but if you are willing to wait until the summer I’ll certainly talk to you and look at doing something’. That was basically it. I went down about two weeks after the Pro12 final and agreed to join them.”

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