Paulie bids Ireland adieu
PAUL O'CONNELL will retire from international rugby at the end of Ireland's World Cup journey.
Munster and the IRFU have agreed to release the Irish captain from his current contract which was due to expire at the conclusion of next season.
"I would like to thank all Munster and Irish rugby fans for their support," said O'Connell, in a statement released yesterday.
"(I would) ask them to continue to show why they are the best supporters in world rugby as Ireland travel to the World Cup in England in September."
This all falls into line with unconfirmed reports that O'Connell will move to the Champions Cup winners Toulon next season.
"Paul has been a fantastic servant to Irish Rugby," said Philip Browne.
"Over the course of his 101 Ireland caps to date, he has set the standard for the model Irish professional.
"His contribution to Irish rugby is immeasurable in terms of not only driving success on the field but also raising the profile of Irish rugby around the world."
The history books tells us O'Connell first pulled on the red jersey in August 2001, on his way to two Heineken Cups (2006 and 2008) three League crowns (2003, 2009 and 2011) and a Celtic Cup in 2005.
His Ireland debut came in February 2002 against Wales, winning Triple Crowns in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2009, the Grand Slam in 2009 and holding the role of captain in the back-to-back Six Nations championships in the last two seasons.
All that remains is for O'Connell to announce his departure to the French Top-14 and put all his commitment into taking Ireland to the World Cup semi-final for the first time.