Paul O’Connell’s World Cup Swansong?

Ireland captain Paul O’Connell: The Limerick-born Irish rugby legend could call time on his playing career later this year.

Ireland captain Paul O’Connell: The Limerick-born Irish rugby legend could call time on his playing career later this year.

Just over eighteen months since the retirement of Brian O’Driscoll it looks as if Ireland’s rugby captain Paul O’Connell might also call time on a glittering playing career at the end of this year’s World Cup campaign. As Ireland celebrated a deserved ten-point victory over England in last Sunday’s Six Nations third round clash, the Ireland captain dropped his biggest hint so far that this may well be his final year in the green shirt that he has wore with such distinction since his senior international debut against Wales in 2002.

Although he did everything he could to avoid upstaging Ireland’s outstanding 19-9 victory over England there is no doubt that last Sunday might well have been Paul O’Connell’s final Six Nations appearance at the Aviva Stadium. And as his young son Paddy escorted him off the pitch and down the tunnel it was also noticeable that both Eoin Reddan and Ronan O’Gara both reached out for his hands to congratulate him in what might well have been a symbolic ‘swansong’ hand-shake for the Irish rugby legend. Speculation that after the World Cup the career of the 35-year-old will take the inevitable turn seemed reinforced. He wasn’t about to deny it.

Just the timing is at question.

Speculation that after the World Cup the career of the 35-year-old will take the inevitable turn seemed reinforced. He wasn’t about to deny it. Just the timing is at question.
But it looks as if the answer to the question on O’Connell’s possible retirement will have to wait until at least October as Ireland now prepare for their most important visit to Cardiff since their unforgettable Grand Slam-clinching performance in 2009.

Six Nations and World Cup a big focus

“Eh, it could have been,” said the Irish captain. “I just don’t know yet. I’m undecided. As I said I really want to play in the World Cup and be the best shape I can there and I’ll see after that.”

With England not due back for a Six Nations match for two years – although they will play a friendly against Ireland before the World Cup – Sunday was O’Connell’s final memory of Six Nations games against England in Dublin.

“Yeah, yeah it probably is,” he said. “There’s no point codding myself too much . . . Yeah I’d say that’s probably my last home Six Nations match against England.

“I just genuinely haven’t decided what to do yet. I really enjoy the playing at the moment in the set up we have in Ireland but I’m conscious that we have very good second-rows as well.

“They’re coming through and as I say the World Cup is a big focus for me and I want to go there in the best shape as I can. That’ll be decision time for me.”

But the Ireland captain predicted the hardest test for Grand Slam glory will come in Wales in a fortnight.

“It’s probably going to be our hardest day of the championship, away from home is obviously harder,” O’Connell said after Ireland equalled their record of 10 consecutive wins.

“They’ve put themselves in with a chance with a big win over in Paris so it’s going to be incredibly difficult.”