Ireland great Paul O’Connell announces retirement from rugby due to injury

• O’Connell sustained hamstring injury at last year’s Rugby World Cup
• 36-year-old retires without playing a game for Toulon

The former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell has been forced to announce his retirement from rugby union after failing to recover from the hamstring injury he sustained at the World Cup last autumn.

O’Connell suffered the injury in Ireland’s pool stage victory over France in October and was subsequently unable to captain his side in the quarter-final defeat by Argentina. The 36-year-old had already announced his intention to retire from international rugby after the World Cup but last summer, after more than 14 years with Munster, agreed a two-year deal with Toulon, only for his injury to deny him the chance to appear for the three-times defending European champions.

“It is with deep regret that I have decided to retire from professional rugby following medical advice,” said O’Connell. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank all at Rugby Club Toulonnais for their understanding and support over the past few months.

“Since sustaining the injury at the World Cup I have been fully focused on returning to fitness and starting an exciting new chapter for both myself and my family in Toulon. Unfortunately this will no longer be possible.”

O’Connell, a ferocious second-row with 115 international caps, was an inspirational captain for Ireland during the 2014 and 2015 Six Nations championship-winning campaigns and in 2009 he was a key member of the so-called golden generation, alongside Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara, that won a first grand slam in 61 years. “Really disappointing to see @Paul_OConnell having to retire. Sensational career in Red & Green. Simply irreplaceable,” O’Driscoll wrote on Twitter.

.@Paul_OConnell time to enjoy a well earned glass of 🍷 in the sun @RCTofficiel

— Gordon D'Arcy (@Gordonwdarcy) February 9, 2016

After winning the grand slam in 2009 O’Connell went on to captain the British & Irish Lions to a 2-1 series defeat in South Africa later that year and he made his seventh appearance in the first Test of the victorious 2013 tour to Australia, playing on until the final whistle in the 23-21 triumph in Brisbane despite breaking his arm in the closing minutes.

He made his debut for Munster in 2001 and became captain in 2007, claiming two Heineken Cups and three Celtic League titles during his time with the province and if there is a cruelness to O’Connell being denied a sun-drenched swansong in Toulon, O’Gara found words of comfort for his long-time Munster team-mate. “Something beautiful and fitting the great man retires as a 1 club man. The pride of Limerick and a role model for the rest of the country,” he tweeted.

Hugely popular for his humility off the field as well as his fierceness on it and his awe-inspiring team-talks, O’Connell said: “I have been blessed to be a professional rugby player for over 14 years and to be part of Munster and Ireland teams that have experienced success. I have played with some of the best players to ever line out in the red of Munster and the green of Ireland and have had the privilege of captaining my country.

Really disappointing to see @Paul_OConnell having to retire. Sensational career in Red & Green. Simply irreplaceable.

— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) February 9, 2016

“I would like to thank those at Young Munster RFC, Munster Rugby, the IRFU and Lions Rugby who have supported me over the course of my playing career. Special thanks must go to my wife Emily for her unwavering support through the good and the bad and to my parents Michael and Shelagh. Lastly I would like to thank everyone who has supported the teams I have been a part of. The support you have shown me is humbling and an immense source of pride for both myself and my family.”

O’Connell’s absence continues to be keenly felt by Ireland, who opened the defence of their Six Nations title with a 16-16 draw at home to Wales on Sunday and continue their campaign against France in Paris on Saturday.

Contributor

Gerard Meagher

The GuardianTramp

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