Tuesday 21 August 2018

'This is a major asset for the club' - Ireland legend Paul O'Connell lands coaching role with Stade Francais

Former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell is off to France
Former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell is off to France

Nick Purewal

Former Ireland captain Paul O'Connell has been named as forwards coach by Top 14 side Stade Francais.

The 38-year-old has signed a two-year-deal to work under former Springboks boss Heyneke Meyer at the Paris club, leaving his role in Ireland's Under-20s set-up.

Former British and Irish Lions lock O'Connell will link up with ex-Munster team-mate Mike Prendergast, while Donnacha Ryan and Simon Zebo are with Racing 92.

The 108-cap ex-Ireland star's move will prove another boost to Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) long-term plans to develop top-level home-grown coaches, with Ronan O'Gara impressing at New Zealand's Crusaders after a stint with Racing 92.

"I am really pleased to welcome Paul to the Stade Francais Paris family," said head coach Meyer.

"Paul will bring his value and experience to our coaching team through his proven leadership abilities and his tactical and technical skills.

"This is a major asset for the club and it shows the ambitions and goals of Stade Francais."

O'Connell flourished in Munster's years of European glory, turning into a totemic figure for province, country and the Lions.

The bruising lock racked up more than 200 Munster appearances between 2001 and 2015, helping the province lift the Heineken Cup in 2006 and 2008.

He also formed an integral part of Ireland's 2009 Grand Slam triumph and the back-to-back Six Nations triumphs of 2014 and 2015.

O'Connell won seven Lions caps across three tours, and was all set for a swansong with a stint in Toulon when he tore his hamstring off the bone at the 2015 World Cup.

O'Connell suffered what eventually proved his career-ending injury as Ireland saw off France 24-9 to book a quarter-final against Argentina, which Joe Schmidt's men later lost 43-20.

O'Connell has always insisted he would bide his time in his move into coaching, and, staying true to his word, had assumed an assistant's role in Ireland's Under-20 set-up.

Now, though, he has the chance to prove his credentials at the top of the club game.

O'Connell said: "I'm really happy to be in Paris and to be able to work at this great club alongside Heyneke Meyer."

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