PAUL O’CONNELL HAS backed his close friend and playing partner Ronan O’Gara to adapt effortlessly to the changeover into his new life as a coach.
O’Gara last week elected to pass up on an offer to play one more season with Munster and instead begin his coaching career on the staff of Racing Metro.
And having been constant fixture in the southern province’s line-up since his debut in 1997, O’Connell admits ‘it will be strange’ to come into the Munster squad next season with the record points scorer absent.
However, O’Connell conceded that he and certain other members of the squad were less surprised than the rest of Ireland last week.
“I suppose some of us have seen it coming for a while.” The lock said while wearing the red of the Lions rather than Munster on Monday afternoon.
“It’s probably not an easy decision to make, but I think it’s a great move for Racing Metro and a great move for him. I think he’ll really enjoy it and they’ll get great value out him.
“He has an incredible work-ethic and great attention to detail and those things are very important when you’re a coach.”
The second row, who is in line to play a full part for the Lions against the Barbarians on 1 June, added that the difficult decision had been made more wrenching by O’Gara’s fitness and the form he displayed in his final two Heineken Cup appearances away to Harlequins and Clermont Auvergne.
“Did I try and convince him to stay? No, he’s well able to make up his own mind.
“Retirement is a very personal decision. Especially when you’re healthy, like, his body is in good shape. But it was important to let him do what he felt was right.”