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Rugby World Cup: Donnacha Ryan tips Ireland warrior Paul O'Connell to come back fighting

By Jonathan Bradley

Paul O'Connell will bounce back from the hamstring injury that ended his World Cup and extend his career by a further two seasons.

That's the opinion of his long-time Munster and Ireland team-mate Donnacha Ryan.

Ireland captain O'Connell won 108 caps in green before his Test career came to a close with the injury in the victory over France on Sunday.

He is set to turn out for Toulon when recovered and Ryan, who came back from an injury nightmare of his own to feature at this World Cup and has packed down alongside his fellow Limerick native in the engine room numerous times for both club and country, thinks that retirement is not on the horizon given the 35-year-old's conditioning.

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

"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."

Ahead of Sunday's quarter-final meeting with Argentina at the Millennium Stadium, Ryan is the man most likely to gain playing time in the absence of O'Connell.

That could either come off the bench in support of Ulsterman Iain Henderson and Devin Toner or from the start should head coach Joe Schmidt opt to use the former to fill the void in the back-row created by the respective absences of the injured Peter O'Mahony and the banned Sean O'Brien.

Despite O'Connell's injury improving his own chances of further World Cup action, Ryan admits it was difficult to watch his friend prone on the Cardiff turf.

"It was a devastating thing to see from up in the stands," said the Shannon man.

"He went in to poach for a ball and obviously some of the France 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, an absolutely 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 trying to perform the same as he was. I knew that if I managed that, I'd be in a good place.

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

Belfast Telegraph


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