Paul O’Connell Opens Up About His Decision To Leave Ireland & Join Stade Francais
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Former Munster, Ireland and Lions captain Paul O’Connell has opened up for the first time on his shock decision to leave Ireland and take up a coaching role with Top 14 side Stade Francais in Paris.
O’Connell had been working with the Munster Academy as well as the Ireland U20s set-up, but hinted towards the end of his tenure that he might not continue a career in coaching. But soon after these comments, he was suddenly announced as the new forwards coach at the Parisian side.
Speaking on 2FM’s Game On on Wednesday night, O’Connell says he has no real long-term plan in terms of the move. The main motivation for him was the opportunity to travel, having lived and worked in Munster his entire life.
“For me to go to Paris, I always wanted to live in France so for me this was a chance to travel, live in an amazing city, immerse myself in coaching and see is this what I want to do while learning a language and meeting some good people,” O’Connell said.
“People don’t seem to believe me when I say there’s no real long-term plan in going to Paris,”
“For me to go to Paris, I always wanted to live in France.”
“I was lucky enough in Munster that I was able to be a professional sportsperson right on my own doorstep. I lived ten minutes away from where I grew up and played for one of the best professional rugby teams in Europe. It just meant I didn’t get an opportunity to travel.”
“So for me, this was a chance to travel, live in a great city, immerse myself in coaching and see is this what I want to do while learning a language and meeting some good people.”
Another motivation for O’Connell has been the chance to learn a new language. O’Connell previously signed a deal with French giants Toulon, before being forced to pull out of the deal after suffering a career-ending injury in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. He says his reasons for signing that deal are similar to now.
“It’s one of the reasons I’m over there, as much as the coaching. I’ve always wanted to learn the language. It’s one of the reasons I was going to go over to Toulon towards the end of my career.
“The only problem is that English in the chosen language spoken in the coaching room because we have Heyneke Meyer (head coach), John McFarland (defence coach), Peter de Villiers, so many of the staff speak English so I’m probably speaking too much English and it doesn’t help me learn.
“I’m trying to figure out as many ways as I can to speak French.
“I do classes in the club. One of the physios in the club, his dad used to work in IBM and is retired and actually teaches refugees French voluntarily and he does lessons with me over the phone.
“I listen to Coffee Break French – I have a Michel Thomas thing on my phone – Johnny Sexton recommended him to me. I’m trying to hit it as many ways as I can and I’d love after Christmas to be able to coach as much as I can in French.
“I’d say I do about 10 per cent now and Peter de Villiers translates, or else one of the players translates. It’s difficult, but it is what it is and you just have to roll with it.”