O’Connell admits worry over Toulon Top14 move

Paul O'Connell will finish his playing career in Toulon

Former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell has admitted that he is nervous about playing for his new club Toulon as he was unveiled by the club this week.

Thirty-six-year-old O’Connell has played his entire club career for Munster and has not joined Toulon in the south of France.

“It’s very strange for me, I’ve only ever played for Munster, I’ve only ever lived in Limerick: it’s a big change for me,” said the lock.

O’Connell won 108 caps for Ireland before retiring from international duty during the 2015 World Cup after suffering a hamstring injury that needed surgery, which ended his participation in the tournament.

“I’m really looking forward to it but I’m also really nervous.”

O’Connell, who officially joined Toulon after the World Cup was over, said he does not have a specific timeframe for returning to action but said his leg feels better.

“It’s good, it’s on the mend. I’ve been doing physio back in Ireland so I feel very good doing everyday things,” he added.

“I haven’t started running yet but hopefully I’ll be back January-February, I’m not fully sure yet.”

The former British and Irish Lions captain said he has not wasted his time on the sidelines, though.

“It’s part of the game, unfortunately you’re going to spend time injured and if you don’t learn to deal with it, you will spend a lot of your career frustrated,” he said.

“It’s been nice for me to spend a lot of time with my family, get a lot of rehab done and get mentally ready for the last big push in my career.”

O’Connell was part of the winning Lions Tour to Australia in 2013 and also toured New Zealand in 2005 and South Africa in 2009 when he was captain.

He won three Six Nations titles with Ireland and two European Cups with Munster, as well as the Celtic League three times.

The one thing O’Connell is most looking forward to is running out at Toulon’s Stade Mayol with the home fans firmly behind him.

“It’s right up there with anything I’ve experienced on the biggest days when Munster have played at Thomond Park. When we played here in Mayol in 2011 we were very badly beaten but the crowd were amazing,” he said.

“The walk into the ground was incredible, very intimidating and very motivating for the (Toulon) players.

“It was the same in Marseille two years ago, the fans were amazing. I think they’re similar to Munster fans in that they love the team, they really get behind the team, it’s a big part of the identity of the city.

“In Limerick and Cork, Munster Rugby plays a massive role there, it’s probably one of the big things I’m looking forward to, playing at Mayol and experiencing the crowd.”

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