Craic-loving Paul O’Connell’s absence leaves a “big hole” in the Ireland team, according to coach Joe Schmidt.

 

The captain was yesterday ruled out of the Rugby World Cup with a serious hamstring injury suffered in the Pool D win over France on Sunday.

The injury also forced the second row, due to move to Toulon, into early international retirement. 

“That’s going to leave a big hole,” Schmidt, whose side face Argentina in the quarter-finals on Sunday, told Irish Rugby TV.

“He obviously calls the lineouts. He dictates a lot of the play along with Johnny and we’re going to have to manage around that.

“He’s obviously a leader by nature. Not having his voice, but also his incredible example around [is a loss].

“It’s incredibly disappointing for Paul as it is for us because we feel we need his leadership and his playing talent and at the same time he would have loved to have finished in a knock-out match in a World Cup.   

“To be honest, it’s a quiet presence that takes up a lot of space"

“To be honest, it’s a quiet presence that takes up a lot of space. His influence on others doesn’t have to be stated – it’s very much demonstrated by what he does.

"Because he does it, other people follow and what he does is commit himself to every facet of preparation.

“He’s a good lad as well, he likes a bit of craic in the environment. He tends to pair himself up with the guys who skive off a little bit and therefore it probably allows him to relax a little bit and at the same time it keeps them on track.”

Ireland must also plan without Sean O'Brien, who is suspended, and the injured Peter O'Mahony. 

Paul O'Connell leaves team hotel