Incredible Paul O’Connell Story From Six Nations Battle With France Shows He’s Not Human
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Former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell was back in the headlines recently with former Springboks lock Victor Matfield declaring him as the toughest opponent he’s ever faced on a rugby pitch.
O’Connell wasn’t the most gifted of athletes but his desire and determination was like no other. He was an imposing figure, a giant in the set-piece, and above all – a leader of men.
Back in 2006, O’Connell was nearing the peak of his powers. Munster would win their first Heineken Cup that year and Ireland were really starting to come of age under Eddie O’Sullivan.
They fell short against France in the Six Nations that year though, going down 29-3 in the first half, with the game pretty much dead and buried at the break. But that game will be remembered for a number of reasons.
Ireland showed incredible character and resilience that day, fighting back in the second half in Paris to cut the lead to just 12 points. It wasn’t enough in the end but it was the beginning of better days to come.
But what really makes that game stand out is the O’Connell story told by Eddie O’Sullivan many years later that proves the Limerick man is no ordinary man.
With Ireland still trailing by 30 points, O’Connell suffered a serious collarbone injury that should have ended his involvement early on in the second half. The injury was so severe that his collarbone was almost poking through his skin.
O’Sullivan simply couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“Probably the thing that jumps out at me is back in 2006 when we were playing in Paris,” O’Sullivan told Matt Cooper on The Last Word.
“We started the game horrendously. We were all over the place. I think – oh God – it must have been 30 points down at half time. We were taking water like we were drowning out there.
“We went out in the second half and we steadied the ship. We were coming back into the game and maybe ten minutes into the second half he was taken off the side of a ruck by a French player and he separated his AC joint which is his collarbone and his collarbone popped up. It was, I suppose, half an inch after popping up, almost breaking through the skin.
“For most people, most mortals, the pain of that is excruciating. Like you would have been reeled ashore; an ice-pack and sit him down.
“He played on, he never broke stride, he ran through it. To me, I just couldn’t get my head around how he went through the pain barrier for 30 minutes in Paris.
“We came back and we scared the hell out of the French and nearly won the game. His contribution in the second half was extraordinary – by any standards – when you consider he had a separated AC joint as he was doing it, to me that was just incredible.”