Thursday 18 January 2018

Paul O'Connell confirms French talks – but not with Toulon!

The Munster lock says he is "90pc" towards making a decision and admits he sought advice from Brian O'Driscoll

O'Connell sat out this clash with Treviso with a shoulder injury but notions of a quiet Saturday afternoon for the Irish captain never looked likely
O'Connell sat out this clash with Treviso with a shoulder injury but notions of a quiet Saturday afternoon for the Irish captain never looked likely
Declan Whooley

Declan Whooley

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell has confirmed he is in regular talks with coaches in France – but those talks are with former Munster team-mates and friends Ronan O'Gara and Mike Prendergast.

The legendary Munster lock continues to be at the centre of speculation that he may end his career in France with Toulon reportedly leading the chase for the 34 year-old. With a year to run on his current IRFU deal, O'Connell says he has still not fully decided whether he will continue after this year's World Cup.

Earlier today, Toulon winger Drew Mitchell admitted the second row would be "an invaluable addition" to star-studded back-to-back European champions.

However speaking to RTÉ Sport at an Adidas launch event this morning, O'Connell said he is "90pc" sure of his decision, has spoken to Brian O'Driscoll about his impending retirement decision and admitted that the only contact he has had with French clubs is talking to his former Munster team-mates, Racing Metro assistant coach O'Gara and Grenoble's skills coach Prendergast.

"I'm 35 now so I'm coming towards the end of my playing days. I'm contracted here in Ireland until next summer," he said.

“The World Cup is coming up so I was always of the opinion that I would either finish after the World Cup or in the summer so I'm still in the midst of that decision.”

"Some people know when they are going to retire, they come out and say they are 100% sure. I'm probably about 90pc sure what I'm going to do.

"But the other 10pc is probably holding me back for saying for sure what I am going to do yet in the media. I just want to be 100pc sure before I say anything.”

Paul O'Connell
Paul O'Connell

While he failed to rule out a move to the Top 14 giants, O'Connell revealed the only French talks he has had have been to catch up with old friends.

“There are two people in France I chat to every week," he admitted. "They are probably Ronan O'Gara in Racing Metro and Mike Prendergast in Grenoble. "They are two friends of mine. Apart from that, there hasn't been anything.

There has been some stuff in the papers, but I suppose because I am coming towards the end of my career and I'm probably finishing with Ireland soon, that is where the speculation is coming from.

“But for me nothing has changed from when I spoke to you guys at the end of the Six Nations. I'm still in the midst of the decision, I probably have to get cracking and make my mind up on what I'm going to do. Probably the summer is the time for that now."

Brian O'Driscoll postponed his retirement for a year and ended up winning both the Six Nations and the PRO12 before hanging up his boots last summer.

The Leinster legend experienced everything that O'Connell is now going through and the two-time Lions captain conceded he has spoken to his former international team-mate about his decision.

“I have chatted to [Brian] a few times. I think one of the things he said is he definitely didn't regret going on another year.

"He had planned to retire and he stayed on and it was probably one of the most enjoyable years of his career. He went on and won a Six Nations Championship. So that was his advice.

“Everyone is different. Everyone is at different stages in their lives and everyone has different reasons to make different decisions. I chatted to a few people but ultimately it will be down to me and my family."

Read more: Toulon star says Paul O'Connell would be an 'invaluable addition'

Read more: Paul O'Connell camp deny new Toulon link

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