Paul O’Connell up for new challenge at Munster

Paul O’Connell’s decision to begin his coaching career from the bottom up has been endorsed by a former colleague, current Grenoble back coach Mike Prendergast.

Munster Rugby yesterday confirmed that O’Connell is to join the Greencore Munster Academy in an advisory role with immediate effect.

O’Connell stayed in Grenoble (where former Irish international Bernard Jackman is Director of Rugby) with Prendergast back in March for almost two weeks to spend time shadowing the coaches at the French club.

“I think this venture is going to be good for him,” Prendergast said. “Paul is clever, he is a smart guy who would know what the best way it is for him to do it. He is going in there helping with the academy which will be of benefit to Munster Rugby and the youths coming through but also it will challenge him in different ways.

“Being a player is one thing, being a coach is another thing, you’re dealing with a younger age group as well, guys with different mentalities, different ways of doing things. That will challenge Paul as well, but it is what he would want.

“I think it is a very good place for him to start and it will give him time to adjust; we have seen it in the past, we have seen the likes of Martin Johnson coming out of the game and into big jobs straight away; and what might happen.

“Paul knows full well this game is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, he is a guy with a lot of knowledge, a lot of experience, a guy who has worked with so many different coaches over the years, with Munster, Ireland, and the Lions.

“However, he knows it’s not all about the knowledge, it will be about man-management too, about dealing with people and different personalities and he will be exposed to that now so everyone, I think, will be a winner from what can be gained. From Paul’s perspective, doing it step by step, he’s doing it the right way.”

Although O’Connell’s aim was to personally gain from his stint in France, Prendergast said the benefit was mutual. “We were all knocking heads off one another, getting ideas. He came over and did a bit of shadowing and was over in Harlequins also, but we were getting stuff (knowledge) off him as well, we squeezed as much out of his head as we possibly could,” said Prendergast.

“It was very disappointing the way it (career) ended for Paulie, nobody would begrudge him for what he wanted to do (moving to Toulon) with maybe one eye looking at coaching down the ladder. Now it looks like he will probably go in that direction sooner rather than later.”

Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald praised the commercial board for helping to bring O’Connell on board and said his presence would help boost morale throughout the organisation.

“We certainly couldn’t let this resource and opportunity go and we are hugely thankful to the commercial board for their support in making this a reality. This appointment highlights our ambition as we embark on a new chapter for the province.”

O’Connell represented Munster on 178 occasions and won two European Cups (2006, 2008), three League titles (2003, 2009, 2011), and a Celtic Cup (2005).

With Ireland, he won a Grand Slam (2009), led his country to two RBS 6 Nations championship titles (2014, 2015) and claimed four Triple Crowns (2004, 2006, 2007, 2009). He played on three Lions tours, led them to South Africa in 2009 and was a member of the series-winning side to Australia in 2013.

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