Paul O’Connell believes long-time second-row partner Donncha O’Callaghan will give new club Worcester unbelievable value for money following the veteran’s decision to leave Munster.
Toulon-bound Ireland captain O’Connell, preparing to face England tomorrow at Twickenham in his side’s final game before the World Cup, hailed former provincial and Test team-mate O’Callaghan as the consummate team man yesterday after Munster confirmed the Irish Examiner’s story their 36-year-old most-capped player was departing for the English Premiership on a two-year contract at Sixways.
Munster and the IRFU agreed to release O’Callaghan from his provincial contract a season early to allow the Corkman to seek regular first-team rugby, just three months after reaching the same accommodation for O’Connell to depart for Toulon.
“I’d say he was in a different place to me because I was going to retire and I changed my mind,” O’Connell told the Irish Examiner yesterday. “I think he’s in phenomenal physical condition and he just wants to play rugby. He wants to play and he wants to play in the big games and you’ve got to respect that.
“I’d say the same as me, there’s probably a little bit of curiosity about what’s on the other side of the fence as well. Like me, I think deep down he’ll always be a Munster man and I think, like me, if he comes back and does anything with Munster he’ll be all the better for this experience.”
O’Connell said he thought Worcester were getting a great deal landing the former Ireland star, capped 94 times by his country and who played four Tests for the British & Irish Lions.
“I just think when goes over there he will blow them away with his attitude to training. He’s a total, consummate team man, puts the team ahead of himself all the time and his values from a family perspective and as a friend perspective are second to none.
“Worcester will get an unbelievable lift from having Donncha O’Callaghan .
You know these Moneyball signings, where you try and sign a guy that’s maybe a little bit over the hill but still a bit of value, I just think Worcester will get unbelievable value for their money out of Donncha O’Callaghan.”
Worcester’s gain will be Munster’s loss, according to provincial captain Peter O’Mahony.
“It’s a big call for Donners. He’s a very close friend and we travel together and he wants to play, wants to start and you’ve got to admire that at his age,” O’Mahony said yesterday. “He’s the ultimate pro and he wants to play first-team rugby. You’ve got to wish him all the best. I can’t do him justice here but he’s been an incredible servant to the Munster and Irish jersey.
“For a guy who’s played over 90 games for Ireland and 260-odd games for Munster it’s probably eating into him over the past 12 months to not be in the starting XV as often. But he’s a guy, even if he was struggling you wouldn’t be able to tell because he’s so positive. Just a great guy to have around the place, priceless, incredibly selfless and he wants what’s best for the team. But he’s still well able to play ball and he wants to play first-team rugby, you’ve got to admire that.”
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