PAUL O’Connell will undergo surgery on his torn hamstring in London this Thursday, with the length of the recovery period to be dictated by the severity of the injury.
It is understood that the severity is as yet unknown, and will be established when the surgery takes place.
The Limerick man, who was due to head to the Cote d’Azur to play for Toulon once the Rugby World Cup was finished, could be facing upwards of four to five months on the sidelines.
The iconic rugby player, who won 108 caps over a majestic 13 year career with his country, has offered a typically understated reaction to the international and World Cup ending injury, tweeting “that’s life”.
Paul, who was in visible discomfort as he left the team hotel on Tuesday, replied to a message from Toulouse forwards coach Yannick Bru which read: “Feel sorry you leave the game that way but congrats for your huge international career. See u in Top 14!”
The inspirational Irish captain’s message in return was: “Thank you. That’s life. Best of luck for the rest of the tournament.”
There were audible gasps and groans in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff during the gritty win over France as Paul went down banging the turf after the incident. He is understood to have watched the second half in the dressing room and was in a lot of pain.
Irish coach Joe Schmidt was among those to pay tribute to the fallen captain when his exit from the World Cup was confirmed.
“It’s incredibly disappointing for Paul as it is for us, because we feel we need his leadership and his playing talent and at the same time he would have loved to have finished playing in a knockout match at the World Cup,” he said.
“He’s obviously a leader by nature, but he’s also a leader by label.
“He’s the skipper, so not having his voice and also his incredible example around the way he plays is the way he prepares and the way he trains and the way he commits to his preparation - you see how committed he is on the pitch, you see how he is where he needs to be, he’s delivering physically every time he’s required to.
“That’s going to leave a big hole. He leads our lineouts, he dictates a lot of the play along with Johnny and, for us, we’re going to have to manage around that.”
The former Leinster coach, who appears to have found his ideal team leader on the pitch in the cerebral O’Connell, said his was “a quiet presence, it’s a quiet presence that takes up a lot of space.
“He physically is a big man, but his influence on others doesn’t have to be stated. His influence is very much demonstrated by what he does and because he does it other people follow.
“And what he does is commit himself to absolutely every facet of preparation,” Schmidt added, speaking to Irish Rugby TV.
Tributes have flowed to the towering lock since confirmation of his international career coming to an end, with former team mates and opposition players of all hues hailing him as one of the greatest rugby players ever.
Former Munster and Irish scrum half Peter Stringer said: “Very lucky to have played alongside Paul O’Connell for a number of years - never met a man like him.”
Ronan O’Gara added his voice to the chorus, tweeting: “My sadness is tinged with absolute pride having spent 16 years with one of Rugby’s greatest competitors. #gentleman #Leader #1ofakind.”
Mayor of Limerick City and County, Cllr Liam Galvin, paid tribute to Paul this Wednesday.
“Paul’s retirement from international rugby is a huge loss to the sport in this country,” he said.
“His inspirational role in our World Cup side will be sorely missed but I am confident that his influence from the sideline during this week’s Quarter Final will be evident for all to see.
“The grit and determination that he has shown throughout his career has always inspired others around him and has been a significant factor in Ireland’s rugby successes not only this World Cup but also in the fortunes of the Lions and Munster rugby sides in years gone by.
“On behalf of the people of Limerick, I wish Paul a speedy recovery, a successful future career with Toulon and I want to thank him for contribution to the national team. He is a wonderful ambassador for Limerick and Ireland and he deserves the recognition he is getting this week,” added Mayor Galvin.
Meanwhile, Ireland will face old foes Argentina in this Sunday’s quarter final at 1pm, shorn of several senior players, including Munster’s Peter O’Mahony, whose World Cup also ended due to injury against France.
Conor Murray is sure to start, while Keith Earls remains in the frame to keep his place in the centre position.
- For more coverage and tributes to Paul O’Connell and the Rugby World Cup see the print editions of the Limerick Leader