The rugby world and beyond are paying tribute to Paul O’Connell after today’s announcement that he was retiring from rugby ‘following medical advice’.
The Munster legend had signed a two-year deal with French side Toulon but in the end never played for them, as he struggled to recover from injury.
Ireland’s talismanic former captain racked up 108 caps in 13 years of Test rugby, and will go down as one of his country’s finest-ever international stars.
The gritty Munster lock beat the turf in agony on tearing his hamstring in Ireland’s 24-9 Pool D World Cup victory over France, however, reacting as much to the pain as the clear result of the blow.
O’Connell was quickly ruled out of Ireland’s quarter-final showdown with Argentina, and Joe Schmidt’s side later lost out 43-20.
O’Connell pressed on undeterred in his bid to join Toulon, despite requiring surgery to repair his serious hamstring problem.
Four months on, however, the British & Irish Lion has been forced to admit defeat in that battle to return to the field.
Video from RBS 6 Nations.
Today he said: "I have been blessed to be a professional rugby player for over 14 years and to be part of Munster and Ireland teams that have experienced success.
"I have played with some of the best players to ever line out in the red of Munster and the green of Ireland and have had the privilege of captaining my country.”
Fans and fellow players have paid tribute to the iconic player.
Really disappointing to see @Paul_OConnell having to retire. Sensational career in Red & Green. Simply irreplaceable.— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) February 9, 2016
Sad to see @Paul_OConnell retire, but what a legend on and off the field. Pleasure to share the same field with and against him.— gethin jenkins (@gethinjenkins1) February 9, 2016
Gutted to hear that @Paul_OConnell has had to retire because of injury. An absolute legend who will continue to inspire ☘— Darran O'Sullivan (@Darransull86) February 9, 2016