One of the giants of British and Irish rugby, Paul O’Connell, has been forced to retire from rugby without ever lining out for his new club, Toulon
Munster man and former Ireland and Lions captain O’Connell never recovered from hamstring injuries suffered in last year’s Rugby World Cup and was told to retire on medical grounds.
The 6 foot 6 inch tall lock with 108 caps for Ireland since 2002 (during which he scored eight tries and captained the side 28 times) had signed a two-year contract with French side Toulon after he ended his international career aged 36.
“It is with deep regret that I have decided to retire from professional rugby following medical advice,” said O’Connell on Tuesday.
“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.”
“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.”
He thanked everyone who had supported him at Young Munster RFC, Munster Rugby, the IRFU and Lions Rugby, and gave special thanks to his wife, Emily, and to his 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.”
Tributes and well wishes are flooding social media today:
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) February 9, 2016
Really disappointing to see @Paul_OConnell having to retire. Sensational career in Red & Green. Simply irreplaceable.
— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) February 9, 2016
One of the greats of the game bows out. Paul O'Connell calls time on his career. All the best with what's next, Paul https://t.co/McGfV3oeru
— Rugby World (@Rugbyworldmag) February 9, 2016
— Dustin The Turkey (@DustinOfficial) February 9, 2016
It had to happen eventually – but it's still a bit like hearing Superman has decided to hang up his cloak #PaulOConnell
— Joe O'Shea (@josefoshea) February 9, 2016