By Shaun Cronin
Paul O’Connell has expressed his sympathy for South Africa captain Jean de Villiers after a jaw injury forced him to retire from international rugby.
De Villiers fractured his jaw in South Africa’s win over Samoa on Saturday at the Rugby World Cup and has been forced into retirement as a result.
De Villiers made 23 appearances in the red of Munster and having been teammates with him O’Connell hailed his “terrific career” after Ireland’s win over Romania last night.
“He’s a great guy,” said O’Connell. “He’s an incredible leader, all the values that you admire in a captain and want in a captain he’s has them.”
“I think the World Cups just don’t seem to work out for him and I’m so disappointed for him, especially to go on the journey he’s been on to come back from his knee injury.”
“That’s test rugby and I think he has had a terrific career, he’s a fantastic player and I wish him the best in his retirement.”
O’Connell, who joins up with French side Toulon at the end of the World Cup, also feels his former Munster colleague will be a massive miss to the Springboks.
“They seem to have a lot of strength in depth in South Africa, but he will be a big loss to them,” said the Irish captain.
“He’s a big leader for them (with) a lot of experience; defensively he’s a very clever player in the backline. He’s just a calming influence I think.”
“There’s a lot of young guys in that backline and I’d say he was a good guy to have in there with them. So, he’ll be a big loss.”
South Africa, minus De Villiers, will meet Scotland Saturday night in a pivotal clash in Pool B encounter that should determine who tops the pool.