Conor Murray believes Paul O’Connell will want his career to end with a bang rather than a whimper but that might not be for another year yet.
Ireland captain O’Connell, declared fit yesterday for Munster’s crucial Guinness Pro12 clash with Ulster at Ravenhill on Saturday, is considering whether to retire or not at the end of the World Cup in October, although his contract expires at the end of next season.
Both Munster and Ireland scrum-half Murray and provincial head coach Anthony Foley, however, think it will be O’Connell’s body that will dictate his decision with his current team-mate believing the legendary second row will not want to play on if his performances are in decline.
“You wouldn’t like to see a player like him start to dip in performances and sort of mellow out, to go out on a low,” Murray said yesterday at Thomond Park as Munster trained ahead of their trip to Belfast.
“He’s definitely the type of player that would like to go out on a high.
“Personally, I think he could continue for at least another year and go on but it’s really himself that feels that, he knows his body better than anyone else so it’s up to him.
“The most important thing is going out on a high, I know he’s the type of player that wouldn’t like to plateau and hang on in there, he is the type of player that wants to contribute as much as he can to a team.”
Head coach Foley said he believed there was no need to rush O’Connell into retirement prematurely but that any encouragement from within the provincial set-up to convince him to play on would be conducted in private.
“He’s had an unbelievable Six Nations. He was player of the Six Nations so I don’t know why we’d want to put him down yet,” Foley said of the former Munster and Lions captain, before addressing any involvement in persuading the 35-year-old to play on.
“Everything like that will go on behind private, closed doors. It’s not public conversations.
“It’s not for me to sit down here and plead a case, it’s something that will happen in an office and nobody will know about it.
“Personally, I had to make that decision as well and it’s not an easy decision for anyone to make, to step away from a game that you love to play. But sometimes your body tells you that you need to look after yourself, so it’s important he makes the right decision when the time comes for him to step away from it.
“You know, there’s a lot of nonsense being written. There’s a lot of people sticking their poker in the fire and trying to stir things up or something like that but at the moment we’re fully focused on Ulster this weekend.
“I would have spoken to Paul about five times in the last eight days but all of them were around preparation for the game.
“There hasn’t been one conversation around personal decisions or anything that he may have to make or mightn’t make.
“We’re fully focused. We understand the importance of this weekend and we want to get on with it and play rugby.
“Paul is contracted until June next season, I always get confused around why we’re talking about a fella who’s under contract.”
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