Forced to retire: Paul O'Connell Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
FORMER Munster and Ireland captain Paul O’Connell has been forced to retire from rugby due to a hamstring injury.
Thirty six-year-old O’Connell, who joined Top 14 giants Toulon on a two-year deal in recent months, has failed to recover from the hamstring injury he sustained at the Rugby World Cup last autumn.
In a statement issued this Tuesday, O’Connell said: “It is with deep regret that I have decided to retire from professional rugby following medical advice. 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.
“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.
“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.”
After 108 caps and 13 decorated years, O’Connell’s international career ended when he sustained the serious hamstring injury during Ireland’s World Cup pool fixture with France at the Millennium Stadium last autumn.
O’Connell is Ireland’s third most-capped player with 108 appearances for his country. The Young Munster clubman made his Munster debut in August 2001 and six months later earned his first cap in an Ireland jersey.
He played 175 times for Munster in all and also captained the Lions on their tour to South Africa in 2009. His international career highlight came with 2009's Six Nations Grand Slam. He finished his Munster career at the end of last season in the province’s Guinness pro12 final defeat to Glasgow at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.