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Paul O'Connell backed to shine at Toulon following World Cup injury heartache

Published 14/10/2015

Paul O'Connell, front, has been tipped to fight back from injury and excel at Toulon
Paul O'Connell, front, has been tipped to fight back from injury and excel at Toulon

Paul O'Connell has been backed to fight back from hamstring surgery and forge a formidable end to his career at Toulon.

O'Connell's long-time Ireland and Munster team-mate Donnacha Ryan tipped his good friend to extend his playing days for at least two more years.

Ireland captain O'Connell's World Cup and Test career came to an abrupt end in Sunday's 24-9 victory over France, the 35-year-old carried from the field on a stretcher and in considerable pain.

The Munster stalwart must now beat his nasty injury in order to take up his new deal at Cote d'Azur heavyweights Toulon - but Ryan is adamant his long-term role model will pull it off.

"He's got another two years in his career," said Ryan of O'Connell.

"He's actually in incredible nick, so he could probably keep going for another five!

"He's a very smart guy so I think he'll be successful in whatever he turns his hand to, be that coaching or anything else.

"He's a very keen student on every aspect of life, a very interesting individual.

"So I think he'd be a fantastic coach if he wanted to go down that route, but there's a lot more mileage for him to do in the meantime.

"I think he'll still be flying through it in another two years' time, so who knows what he'll want to do then.

"He's been great since the injury, he was obviously very disappointed but he's a very much next thing kind of guy, he wants to get on with it, you know the story.

"There's no point in feeling sorry for yourself, so he just gets on with it, and he knows what he has to do now.

"It was great chatting away with him, he's still slagging away, so things don't change too much!

"Everything moves very fast, so that's good."

O'Connell thumped the Millennium Stadium turf in agony, aware straight away his hamstring injury would end his 108-cap Test career.

Ireland must now face Argentina in Sunday's World Cup quarter-final without their talisman and skipper, with Ryan poised to start in the second row.

Ryan believes Ireland have already started to work out the strategy of how to cope without O'Connell, Peter O'Mahony and the banned Sean O'Brien this weekend.

But the 31-year-old admitted it was cruel fate to see O'Connell forced to depart the Millennium Stadium in a wheelchair on Sunday night.

"It was devastating to see from up in the stands," said Ryan.

"He went in to poach for a ball and obviously lads came in to ruck him out, and came down over the top of him.

"You could see immediately from his face that he was wincing in pain and he would only rarely do that, even at the worst of times.

"And it's very sad to think the final image of Paul O'Connell in an Irish jersey would be him in a wheelchair, being taken out the back of the stadium. That was very sad.

"But he is still, and always will be, a fantastic player.

"He's the best in the world, and the best compliment I could pass him is that every time I was playing with him, I was never really occupied with my opposite number.

"It was more a question of trying to match the player alongside me and try to perform the same as he was. I knew that if I did, I'd be in a good place.

"He'll be sorely missed but he's still a great mate so we'll see him again soon."

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