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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 25 April, 2019
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O'Connell hopeful of return early in 2016 as he begins new life in Toulon

The 36-year-old said he is nervous about his new life with the three-time European champions.

PAUL O’CONNELL SAYS he hopes to make his Toulon debut in January or February as he continues his recovery from hamstring surgery.

The 36-year-old lock was unveiled by the three-time European champions at a press conference in the club’s Stade Berg Ange-Siccardi training facility this afternoon, when he stated that he is nervous ahead of his new challenge.

O’Connell’s two-season contract with Toulon brought to an end his 14-year association with Munster. The Limerick native also retired from international rugby after Ireland’s World Cup campaign this year, leaving Joe Schmidt with the task of finding a new captain.

Frustratingly, O’Connell is unable to make an immediate debut for his new club, who beat Leinster last weekend in Stade Mayol and play the Irish province again at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

However, the prognosis for O’Connell looks more positive than initially feared and he said he expects to be playing again early in 2016. The lock tore his hamstring clean off the bone during Ireland’s World Cup win over France and there were fears that his entire season was over.

“It’s good, it’s on the mend,” said O’Connell when asked about his hamstring. “I’ve been doing physio back in Ireland, so I feel very good doing every day things. I haven’t started running yet. Hopefully, I’ll be back January or February, I’m not fully sure yet.”

O’Connell joined fellow new signings such as Ma’a Nonu, Samu Manoa and Duane Vermeulen for Toulon’s squad photo earlier today, with the likes of Matt Giteau, Steffon Armitage and Guilhem Guirado welcoming him to his new club.

Toulon’s cast of world-class stars is an imposing proposition for the rest of European rugby and the fact that RCT are based on the beautiful Côte d’Azur made it all the easier for O’Connell to accept their offer.

“I feel great,” said O’Connell. “The weather’s amazing, it’s raining non-stop in Ireland at the moment. I’ve met the players, stood in for the team photo today.

“A lot of guys, I was really looking forward to meeting. I know a lot of the players to say hello to, but I don’t really know them. I haven’t really met them or had a conversation with them.

“So, I’m looking forward to getting to know them, to getting to know the staff as well. I was in my first meeting today, that was enjoyable, I watched a bit of training. It’s all good.”

While O’Connell is enjoying settling in to his life in Toulon, the sight of him in a new red jersey might have been hard for Munster diehards to take today. Few will begrudge O’Connell his new adventure but he admitted himself that this is totally new water.

“I like it, it’s very strange for me. I’ve only ever played for Munster, I’ve only ever lived in Limerick.

“It’s a big change for me, I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also nervous about it. So, I like the jersey and I’m looking forward to wearing it.”

- This article was updated at 9.18pm to indicate that O’Connell spoke at Toulon’s Stade Berg Ange-Siccardi training facility, rather than Stade Mayol.

Munster and Ireland legend Paul O’Connell has been unveiled as a Toulon player

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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