Paul O’Connell admits it was his British & Irish Lions link with fitness expert Paul Stridgeon that brought him closer to his eventual move to European Champions Toulon.
The 35-year-old Irish legend has starred on the past three Lions tours, turning out a total of 15 times in the famous red jersey.
He skippered the Sea of Red on the 2009 tour of South Africa, before playing in pivotal role in 2013’s triumph in Australia.
But O’Connell will retire from test rugby at the conclusion of the World Cup, as he attempts to inspire Ireland to a maiden success in the competition.
And despite the sun setting on a glittering international career, he is relishing the opportunity for a fresh start in France.
“I just know myself, I'm looking forward to the World Cup, but this is going to be the end of my time for Ireland if I want to go to France and be able to play well for Toulon,” he said.
“The World Cup will certainly be the end of my Ireland career.
“For two years I was fairly sure I was going to retire altogether after the World Cup. But I got some contact from Paul Stridgeon who is the strength and conditioning coach at Toulon, who was also on the Lions tour, to ask if I'd be interested.
“I got back to him after Christmas and said, look, it's not for me I'm going to fully retire after the World Cup.
“Once I told them that a small bit of regret sunk in, and a month or five weeks later I got another text saying they were about to move on another player.
“I was feeling really good so I just said to them I would be interested.”
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