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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Tributes Flood In For ‘Inspirational’ O’Connell

Tributes Flood In For ‘Inspirational’ O’Connell

The tributes have been flooding in for Paul O’Connell, both at home and abroad, following confirmation that a significant hamstring injury will sideline him for the rest of the Rugby World Cup and bring his Ireland career to a premature end.

O’Connell To Undergo Surgery And Ruled Out Of RWC

JOE SCHMIDT: “He’s obviously a leader by nature. He’s the skipper and sets an incredible example. The way he plays is the way he prepares, and the way he trains and the way he commits to his preparation.

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“You see how committed he is on the pitch. You see he’s where he needs to be – he’s delivering physically every time he’s required to. (His departure) is going to leave a big hole. He obviously calls the lineouts and dictates a lot of the play along with Johnny (Sexton).

“For us, we’re going to have to manage around that. It’s incredibly disappointing for Paul as it is for us because we feel we need his leadership as well as his playing talent, and at the same time he would have loved to have finished in a knockout match at a World Cup. It’s disappointing as a result on both our behalves.

“(He has) a quiet presence, to be honest, that takes up a lot of space. Physically he’s a big man. 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 him. What he does is commit himself to absolutely every facet of preparation.

“He’s a good lad. He likes a bit of craic in the environment. He tends to pair himself up with the guys who skive off a little bit, and therefore it probably allows him to relax a little bit and at the same time it keeps them on track, so that’s always a bonus as well!”

BRIAN O’DRISCOLL: “One of the greatest leaders and players of them all. Inspirational.”

RONAN O’GARA: “My sadness is tinged with absolute pride having spent 16 years with one of rugby’s greatest competitors. A gentleman, a leader and one of a kind.”

ROBBIE HENSHAW: “The first time I met Paulie he was so welcoming to me as one of the youngest players in the squad. He just always took me under his wing and helped me all around the place.

“He’d always give me that bit of advice and wasn’t too intense. He’d always switch off and crack a few jokes. I always loved and admired that side of him that he wasn’t all intense and all work but was a good craic off the pitch as well. He was a true inspirational leader and is going to be a massive loss in our team.

“Any time he spoke he’d say the right thing, every time he would say the right thing and he would never repeat himself. It would always be something new, it would always catch you and you’d never lose focus on what he’d say. A true character and a true leader.”

ALAN QUINLAN: “Just a fantastic leader. He went out and did everything he could to be the best he could be, and he wanted his team-mates to do the same.

“Paul just demanded an honesty from everyone. Preparation is everything and he’s intrigued by sports science. It’s no coincidence that the younger players are delivering big performances now. He’s had a huge influence on them and the squad.”

JOHN HAYES: “He goes beyond rugby, he has a place in Irish sport and even beyond that. Everyone in Irish sport knows him and everyone respects him.

“They’ve seen what’s he’s done over the last decade-and-a-half. He’s driven standards and just wanted to take everyone on. Even if we’re a small country, he saw no reason why we shouldn’t beat everyone.”

EDDIE O’SULLIVAN: “He’s a world class player and lineout tactician. I think he’s the best (lineout operator) in the world. He’s a fantastic athlete and leader, and he plays at 100% all the time.

“His career speaks for itself. He had this capacity and gravitas, even in training. Players tended to look to him even when he was very young and just coming through.”

PETER STRINGER: “I’ve been very lucky to have played alongside Paulie for a number of years for Munster and for Ireland. It’s safe to say that for as long as I’ve been involved in rugby, I’ve never met a man like him.

“An inspirational leader, a motivating captain who demands the highest of standards from players as well as every member of an organisation to ensure that their team succeeds.

“His motivating words in the changing room or his actions on the field, guys just want to follow him and play for him and win for this man. I think it’s a fitting tribute that some players have come out saying that they want to win this World Cup for Paulie. It’s just a mark of the man that guys respect him so much.”

CHRIS HENRY: “It’s a massive loss to lose Paulie and Pete (O’Mahony) as well – your captain and one of your vice-captains. We were relieved that the weekend went well for us and delighted that we could produce our best performance but it’s very, very sad to lose Paul after everything he’s given to this country and the way he’s played for so many years.

“To have him not coming out with us on the weekend is really tough for him and gutting for all the players. Paulie doesn’t speak that often, most of the time it’s about how he leads.

“It’s going to be how we’re going to front up on the pitch because in the past whenever Ireland faulted a bit, or had a slow start it’s usually Paulie who generates something or smashes somebody or gets the ball and does something different, and just keeps on going and going whenever there’s a brick wall in front of him.

“If we can use any sort of inspiration we can to try and do something for him, then we’ll use a bit of that as well.”

ANTHONY FOLEY: “From Ardscoil Rís to Young Munster, then Munster, Ireland and the Lions, he’s been the heart and soul of every team he’s been involved in and to see him stretchered off on Sunday was not something any of us wanted to see.

“We had some great days and bad days together. You always tend to highlight the good days but you really know a person’s character when you have the bad days. His work through the heartbreaks on the way to the success of 2006, then 2008, and 2009 with Ireland and beyond was just immense and he will be a massive loss.

“It’s hard to put into words or measure his contribution to Irish rugby, other than saying it has been immense. It’s just the influence he has, how he leads and how he pushes those around him to another level.”

NIAMH BRIGGS: “You always want to finish your career on your own terms but sport can be cruel. Paul is a true leader and inspiration. Hope he gets back to play in France. Iconic.”

SIR IAN MCGEECHAN: “I likened him to Martin Johnson. The two of them were massive captains. Ireland were really blessed to have Paul and Brian O’Driscoll there for so long. You kept your feet on the ground, and you had someone who would lead by example in the toughest environment.

“Whether it was a Munster jersey or an Ireland jersey or a Lions jersey, he always led from the front and by example. Off the field he was such a humble character, it was very easy to see the line he’d come from.

“He made sure players kept their feet on the ground and made them understand the honour every time you put that jersey on. He was outstanding as a Lions captain in 2009.”

RHYS RUDDOCK: “One of the most inspirational players I’ve ever played with and one of the most difficult players to play against because he was non-stop, all action and giving 100%.”

JACK MCGRATH: “It’s amazing to have played with him. He’s such a normal bloke as well and anytime you had any questions, he’s very easy to talk to. He;s really a true warrior and a massive loss.”

CONNACHT RUGBY: “For everything you’ve given for Irish rugby, thanks Paulie.”

MUNSTER RUGBY: “A trailblazer for Irish rugby. He gave everything for green. Thanks Paulie.”

ULSTER RUGBY: “Will go down as one of Irish rugby’s all-time greats. Thanks Paul.”

MATT DAWSON: “Devastated about Paul. A mountain of a man but more importantly a mountain of a personality within. Gutted I never played more with him.”

BILLY VUNIPOLA: “Congratulations Paul on an incredible international career. Shame to see it end the way it did, but 108 caps and 13 years is some feat.”

MIKE TINDALL: “Such a shame Paul will not be able to see Ireland to the end of this World Cup. Talisman and a true gent in the sport.”

JONATHAN ‘JIFFY’ DAVIES: “What a sad way to end an international career. What a legend of a man. He’s been inspirational playing for Munster and Ireland and he’s been a tremendous role model.

“One of the greatest Irish players of all-time. Him and (Brian) O’Driscoll, fantastic role models. Sad way to finish, but an inspirational player.”

SHANE WILLIAMS: “I had a pleasure of sharing a room with him several times on the 2009 Lions tour. Not only is he a fantastic rugby player and an ambassador and legend for Ireland, he’s a top, top guy.

“I know he wouldn’t have wanted it to end this way, with the hamstring injury ruling him out. A fitting end would have been him lifting the trophy at the end of October. Unfortunately, it’s not to be.

“He’s one of the greatest players to have played the game, one of the top guys in world rugby. I wish him all the best in his future endeavours and it was a pleasure playing alongside him.”

KENNY LOGAN: “As an ex-player and as a fan what a great ambassador for the sport, a true legend of the sport. A Lion, Munster and Irish and World Cup hero.

“If anyone wants to watch how you should be a second row or an ambassador for the sport he is the one to watch. You are a true legend mate and I hope you get back playing with Toulon and have a speedy recovery.”

SERGIO PARISSE: “Was a pleasure to play against you, Paul. Really sad to hear of your retirement. Best second row ever!”

ITALIAN RUGBY FEDERATION: “Sad to hear that Paul is forced to retire. He’s been a fierce opponent for Italy and a great ambassador for the game.”

YANNICK BRU: “Feel sorry Paul leaves the game that way, but congratulations on his huge international career. See you in the Top 14!”

BRITISH & IRISH LIONS RUGBY: “Very sad to hear Paul of ruled out of Rugby World Cup 2015. Wishing you a speedy recovery from everyone at the Lions.”

JOEL STRANSKY: “Very sad to see the international end for Paul, as a result of his torn hamstring. It’s bad news for Ireland and it makes their challenge a little tougher against a formidable Argentinian side.”

BRYAN HABANA: “A true collosus and legend of the game. Much respect, Paul.”

AP MCCOY: “Gutted for Paul. Great man, great leader, great warrior.”

AARON KERNAN: “Because of the legacy he’s helped to create and the belief he’s instilled in his team-mates, Paul’s presence will be felt for years. Icon.”

BARRY MCGUIGAN: “My heart goes out to Paul. What a player, what a man, what a leader.”