Thanks Paulie: 'Leader, warrior and gentleman' O'Connell says goodbye

Thanks Paulie: 'Leader, warrior and gentleman' O'Connell says goodbye

Irish Rugby have confirmed the news Ireland fans were dreading. Captain Paul O’Connell’s World Cup tournament is over, and with it the curtain falls on a 13 year international career.

Supporters feared the worst when O’Connell went down shortly before half-time, clearly in serious pain, in Sunday’s pool match against France.

Thanks Paulie: 'Leader, warrior and gentleman' O'Connell says goodbye

Paul O’Connell being stretchered off the field last night.

The medical team were pessimistic about his chances of recovery after the match and have confirmed the news in the last few minutes.

They said: "Paul O'Connell suffered a significant hamstring injury and will undergo surgery this week.

"Paul will not play again at Rugby World Cup 2015 and his time out of the game will depend on the outcome of the surgery."

13 years and eight months after making his international debut, O’Connell’s time in a green jersey is at an end.

Thanks Paulie: 'Leader, warrior and gentleman' O'Connell says goodbye

Paul O'Connell makes his way onto the pitch prior to kick off on his debut against Wales in the Six Nations Championship, Landsdowne Road. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

The giant Limerick man had come to epitomise all that is great about Irish rugby in his 108 cap career and his loss is a terrible blow to the squad and their hopes for the tournament.

Thanks Paulie: 'Leader, warrior and gentleman' O'Connell says goodbye

3 February 2002; Paul O'Connell celebrates with team-mate Peter Stringer after scoring his try against Wales in the Six Nations Championship at Lansdowne Road. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

In the days to come, Schmidt will refocus his men and no doubt encourage them to do it for Paulie in the remaining games, but a leader of the quality of O’Connell is not easily replaced.

When interviewed in the run up to his hundredth cap in March O’Connell admitted his competitive spirit was what underpinned a 13-year Test career.

He said experience helped him hone his approach, but conceded his sheer will to win has kept him in the sport.

“I’m very competitive, that would be my biggest strength,” said O’Connell.

Thanks Paulie: 'Leader, warrior and gentleman' O'Connell says goodbye

6 August 2003; Paul O'Connell at Ireland rugby squad training in Dubarry Park, Athlone. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

“I certainly can’t run over people or unlock defences with my footwork, or whatever, but I’m certainly very competitive.

“I enjoy being part of a team and helping drive teams on, trying to make them successful and trying to get the best out of people. I’ve always enjoyed a leadership role whether I’ve been captain or not.

Thanks Paulie: 'Leader, warrior and gentleman' O'Connell says goodbye

21 March 2009; Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan celebrate with the RBS Six Nations Championship trophy and Triple Crown in the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

“It’s part of my personality that’s featured in my rugby for most of my career.

“And that probably has helped sustain my career, it’s never been a chore for me.

“I think that happens to some guys maybe towards the end of their careers, but I’ve always enjoyed it.

Thanks Paulie: 'Leader, warrior and gentleman' O'Connell says goodbye

13 February 2011; Paul O'Connell celebrates after Tomas O'Leary scored Ireland's second try against France in the Aviva Stadium. Picture: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE

O’Connell enjoyed many of his greatest days in a green jersey with fellow legend Brian O’Driscoll, who he now joins in international retirement.

Thanks Paulie: 'Leader, warrior and gentleman' O'Connell says goodbye

5 March 2014; Paul O'Connell, left, and Brian O'Driscoll celebrate with the RBS Six Nations trophy in the Stade De France, Paris. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

Despite being renowned for his intensity the player also believed in indulging the lighter side of life and showed his sense of fun throughout his career.

Thanks Paulie: 'Leader, warrior and gentleman' O'Connell says goodbye

23 February 2005; Paul O'Connell is snowballed by team-mate Frank Sheahan after Ireland rugby squad training. Terenure Rugby Club, Dublin. Picture: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

He thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to get a rise out of ‘the backs’ as recently as a few weeks ago.

Although they equally enjoyed their revenge.

The tributes will pour in over the next few hours and days. For now we say Paulie, thanks for the memories.

Thanks Paulie: 'Leader, warrior and gentleman' O'Connell says goodbye

Paul O’Connell battling against Wales in the Millennium Stadium in March 2015.

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