Paul O’Connell confirms Ireland retirement after Rugby World Cup
Munster lock to call time on stellar international career in October paving way for Toulon move on a two-year deal
The Irish Rugby Football Union has confirmed Paul O’Connell will be released from his contract early paving the way for his move to European champions Toulon.
Despite being contracted with the IRFU until 2016, the Ireland captain requested to be released early and will call time on his international career after the Rugby World Cup, which takes place in September and October.
After the World Cup I would like to experience new environments, and it is my genuine hope and ambition that I will have some future involvement with Munster and Irish Rugby.
Having already said farewell to his province in last weekend’s Guinness PRO12 final defeat to Glasgow Warriors in Belfast, O’Connell is set to head to the south of France on a two-year deal expected to be worth around €1.2 million.
The 35-year-old has led his country to back-to-back RBS 6 Nations titles and could go out on the ultimate high if Ireland can win the Rugby World Cup for the first time, with Joe Schmidt’s men seen as dark horses for the title.
“I would like to thank Munster Rugby and the IRFU for releasing me from my contract at the end of the Rugby World Cup,” O’Connell said.
“I have been hugely fortunate to play with one of the greatest sporting organisations in the world – and as a proud Limerick, Munster and Irishman, I will forever treasure my association with Munster Rugby.
“After the World Cup I would like to experience new environments, and it is my genuine hope and ambition that I will have some future involvement with Munster and Irish Rugby.
“I would also like to thank all Munster and Irish Rugby fans for their support and I look forward to them showing why they are regarded as the best supporters in world rugby as Ireland travel to the Rugby World Cup in England in September.”
O’Connell has enjoyed a glory-laden 14-year career with Munster, claiming three league titles, two European titles and the Celtic Cup since making his senior provincial debut in August 2001.
As well as making 178 appearances for his province, the Limerick man has won 101 caps for Ireland, winning four Triple Crowns and three Six Nations titles – the first a Grand Slam in 2009, with the 2014 and 2015 successes coming as skipper.
He has also been an influential figure on the last three British and Irish Lions tours, winning seven caps, captaining the side against South Africa in 2009, and playing a part in the series-winning side against Australia in 2013.
“Paul has been a fantastic servant to Irish Rugby,” said IRFU chief executive Philip Browne.
“Over the course of his 101 Ireland caps to date he has set the standard for the model Irish professional.
“His contribution to Irish rugby is immeasurable in terms of not only driving success on the field but also raising the profile of Irish Rugby around the world.”