Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
©INPHO/Dan Sheridan Paul O'Connell has been praised by teammates for his influence on younger squad members.
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Injured Paul O’Connell to begin his coaching career with the Lions
Lions head coach Warren Gatland will tap into the Irish lock’s ‘experience and wisdom’.

PAUL O’CONNELL TOLD last month of his ambitions to get into coaching once his playing career was over.

The inspirational Irish lock may not have wished for hands-on coaching experience to arrive on the Lions tour to Australia but a tour-ending fractured arm means his experience is needed elsewhere. Lions head coach Warren Gatland is delighted that O’Connell will stay on tour and plans to use him as much as possible in training sessions leading up to the final two Tests of the 2013 Tour.

Gatland said, “He was given the option to stay on and I don’t think he’ll be on the next Lions tour in four years time. He played such an important role in that First Test so he was given the option of whether he will stay or go home and he chose to stay with the squad.

I think it’ll be fantastic if we can win this series. I know a lot of players that have been around for a while have not won a series in the southern hemisphere. He’s one of those players that is desperate for it. I feel really sorry for Paul. It’s a big loss for him and a big loss for this squad because he’s playing some of the best rugby, I think, that I’ve seen him play in a long, long time. He looked in great shape. The combination of him and Alun Wyn Jones was proving to be really, really strong.”

Gatland added, “He’s been around for such a long time that he’s got that experience and wisdom to be able to have an input. I’m sure he’ll be involved in some aspect [of training].”

Speaking to before the Lions tour Down Under, O’Connell revealed that he would be interested in following Munster teammates Anthony Foley and Ronan O’Gara down the coaching path once he retires. He said, “Retirement is something every player thinks about when he gets into his 30s. You have to plan and prepare for that but a lot of your thinking is influenced by injuries. I’d love to continue playing until the next Lions Tour [in 2017] but I’m not too sure that would be possible.

Coaching is something I’d certainly look at. It would be great to stay involved at Munster but whatever level you end up coaching at, it’s important that you can give something back.”

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