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Paul O'Connell's retirement 'a sad day' for rugby fans all over the world, says Stephen Ferris

By Jonathan Bradley

Paul O'Connell's retirement is sad news for rugby fans across the world, according to his old Ireland team-mate Stephen Ferris.

The former British and Irish Lions captain was yesterday forced to admit defeat in his attempt to play rugby again after the significant hamstring tear he picked up representing Ireland at the World Cup last October.

Ulsterman Ferris - himself forced to call time on his career earlier than he would have liked after injury - described O'Connell as one of the world's best.

"I've shared a changing room with him many times and for me he was an unbelievable character," said O'Connell's fellow 2009 Grand Slam winner.

"He's someone I looked up to as a young international player when I was coming into the set-up.

"I loved playing with him but I loved playing against him too just because he was the best in the world in his position.

"You wanted to test yourself against that. What you have to remember is he's a great guy as well.

"That's what makes it even more disappointing for every rugby fan out there and I include myself in that. I wish him all the best for the future, whatever it holds."

As many have already speculated, Ferris expects that future to bring continued involvement in the sport, perhaps even as a future coach of Ireland.

"The amount he has done for Irish rugby over the years, the amount he has given to Irish rugby over the years, and even rugby in general, is huge and that's what you want to continue," he added.

"A lot of the talk is if he would he be interested in working in a coaching capacity. It would be a shame for someone of his class not to be involved in the game.

"He still has so much to give if that's what he wants to do.

"Whether it's with Munster, club or international level, whatever he wants really, I think he could slot right in there."

Former Munster and Ireland team-mate Alan Quinlan, a Heineken Cup winner with O'Connell during their time at Thomond Park, says that O'Connell's drive to succeed is something he will always remember.

"It's a big disappointment," said Quinlan. "He is a very driven person who inspired a lot of people around him.

"He had that natural ability to lead players."

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