"I was kind of aware that there was a patch on the pitch that wasn't in the best of condition," admitted the Munster lock afterwards.
"During the warm-up once or twice I caught a glimpse of Declan (Kidney) and a few officials down there. But I was still fairly sure it was going to go ahead.
"We'd prepared that way - everyone else was preparing that way. Sometimes you say you're preparing but you kind of know it's not going ahead.
"We were fairly sure that it was going to go ahead and I'd say it was 30, 60 seconds before we went out that Dave (Pearson), the ref, came in and said it's not going to go ahead."
O'Connell said he felt sorry for the supporters inside the stadium, although some of them did at least get to see the Irish players return to the pitch for a run-out after the game was called off.
He revealed that they did so because the squad had been looking forward to the game and needed to let off some steam.
"Guys were pumped up and they just wanted to do a little bit of fitness. Unfortunately the crowd then kind of gathered and they asked us to leave because they thought if we left, the crowd might leave.
"We only ended up getting half a session done so that's just the way it was - a bizarre end to a strange day," he added.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Six Nations Media & Communications manager Christine Connolly said: "Unfortunately on the advice of the referee it was decided that the pitch was unplayable.
"He came here yesterday and inspected it under the covers and then again at 7.30pm (French time) this evening and it was playable.
"However, sadly in the 90 minutes after the covers were drawn back it froze over in several areas and was unplayable."
A date for the re-fixed match has yet to be confirmed, with next weekend or Friday, March 2 mentioned as possibilities. A new date will be confirmed by the tournament organisers on Monday.