Tuesday 21 August 2018

O'Connell begins his Stade reign

O’Connell will link up with long-time friend and former Young Munster and Munster team-mate Mike Prendergast. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
O’Connell will link up with long-time friend and former Young Munster and Munster team-mate Mike Prendergast. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Paul O'Connell arrived in Paris last night to begin his coaching career with Stade Francais.

And he will get little time to settle in as the squad leave tomorrow for a mini-camp in La Rochelle which will culminate on Friday with a pre-season friendly against their Top 14 rivals who are now coached by Jono Gibbes.

That clash with La Rochelle will be Stade's final pre-season game - they went down 38-26 to Toulon on Friday evening - before they open their Top 14 campaign away to Paddy Jackson's Perpignan on August 25.

O'Connell will link up with long-time friend and former Young Munster and Munster team-mate Mike Prendergast as part of a new coaching ticket assembled by Heyneke Meyer at Stade Francais.

The former Springboks coach has been brought in by Dr Hans-Peter Wild, the Swiss billionaire owner of Capri Sun, who bought Stade Francais in May 2017 and embarked on a three-year project which he expects to see them crowned French champions.

Stade Francais are the second most successful side in France, having picked up their 14th Top 14 crown in 2015, with only Toulouse, with 19 Bouclier de Brennus titles, ahead of them in the roll of honour.

Backs coach Prendergast, who was recruited from relegated Oyonnax having previously worked with Bernard Jackman at Grenoble, played a key role in O'Connell moving to Stade Francais.

"Initially, Heyneke was looking for a lineout coach, perhaps someone to come in on a consultancy basis. I would be in regular contact with Paul and mentioned it to him," he said.

"It's all quite recent, he had just come back from France from the U-20 World Cup (with Ireland) and it just evolved from there and he came out to Paris last week and the deal was done.

"It's a perfect fit for the club and it's a perfect fit for Paul."

Irish Independent

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