Six Nations: Ireland captain Paul O'Connell delighted to be staying with Munster
Paul O'Connell believes his decision to stay at Munster and shun a move abroad will help prolong his career.
By Tony Tighe
Last Updated: 30/01/14 4:36pm
The former British and Lions skipper ended speculation over his future this week by signing a two-year contract with the IRFU that keeps him at his home province until the end of the 2015/16 season.
Having suffered more than his fair share of injury problems over the past few years, O'Connell now undergoes a specific training regime, something which may not have been tolerated had he switched clubs.
"The World Cup is a still a long way off and I need to look after myself if I want to make it there," said the 34-year-old.
"I'm working with a strength and conditioning and medical group that would know my history for the last few years, and know how to look after my body.
"I think if you move club, you have to make an impression and some of the training practices that I have might not be tolerated.
"I'm fairly well looked after with Munster and Ireland. I can't do what the 23-year-old guys are doing in the gym anymore so I was delighted to get the contract sorted. It puts me in a really good place to hopefully be in good shape for Munster and Ireland over the next number of years."
With the majority of professional Irish sportspeople forced to move abroad to further their careers, O'Connell feels privileged to have been able to spend his whole career in his native Limerick.
"It's one of the nice things with provincial rugby in Ireland," he said.
"There aren't many Irish people who get to be professional sportspeople and still live in the city they grew up in, and play for the team they supported. A lot of soccer players and other athletes have to move abroad.
"But if you look at the team sheets of the provinces on any week, the majority of them are Irish players who grew up in the province. That's a big attraction to me staying."
O'Connell was handed the captaincy by head coach Joe Schmidt ahead of last November's internationals and the veteran lock acknowledges that his job is made much easier by the number of experienced players in the current Ireland squad.
He explained: "Sometimes it can be very tough when you're captaining an inexperienced squad and there isn't a lot of help and leadership coming through from young guys who are just trying to break into the team.
"I think the Irish set-up at the moment is very different to that. You have Jamie (Heaslip) and Brian (O'Driscoll), who have both captained Ireland. Brian has captained the Lions as well.
"You've Rory Best who does it up in Ulster, Peter O'Mahony does it in Munster, and Jonny Sexton is also a potential captain.
"For me, it's not a bad squad to be captaining at the moment because there is a lot of resources there, including an excellent coaching staff."