Paul O’Connell’s Training Ground Fight Story From The 2007 World Cup Is Insane
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In a brand new feature we look back at some of the great Rugby World Cup stories from years gone by, ahead of the return of rugby’s showpiece event in Japan later this year.
Some of the best rugby stories from over the years have come from the world’s stage and we just had to start with Paul O’Connell’s infamous training ground bust-up from 2007.
The 2007 Rugby World Cup may be a distant memory – but for many Irish fans it still hurts. One of the most talented squads ever assembled completely crumbled in France, failing to even get out of their Pool as a result of defeats to Argentina and the hosts themselves.
For years there were rumours of a split between the players, and O’Connell’s story, which was published in his book many years later, gives some pretty solid credence to that.
The towering lock says he got in multiple “scraps” with his teammates in training sessions ahead of the tournament – with one “scrap” in particular almost having very serious consequences.
“In training, I continued getting into scraps, until the day in 2007 when I realised that a lot of us had become so powerful through lifting weights that a single punch could hurt someone badly.” O’Connell writes
“It happened at an Ireland camp before the World Cup, when Eddie was close to naming his squad for France. We were training at the University of Limerick and Ryan Caldwell, the Ulster second-row, was trying to make an impression.”
“He’d been spoiling rucks all week, making a nuisance of himself. That was all fair enough – he was like me at the same age – but when he put me on the floor with a tackle in a non-contact session my went and I got up and threw a punch.”
“I didn’t think I hit him too hard, but my right hand struck the side of his face and he went down, unconscious. What I didn’t know then was that one of his teeth had burst his cheek and he was swallowing a lot of blood.”
“The rest of us had to move away when the team doctor, Gary O’Driscoll, rushed over to him.”
“I kept looking over, from a distance, and the situation just kept getting worse and worse. Gary was trying to resuscitate him and he had blood all over his mouth. He was roaring for an ambulance. Then he started cutting the jersey off Ryan.”
“I was shaking by the time the ambulance came to take him away. I was starting to fear the worst, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking that.”
“The ambulance drove off and Eddie came across the pitch towards us.”
‘What’s the story?’, I asked him.”
The story is, you nearly killed him’.”