Donnacha Ryan hailed Paul O’Connell as the “best second row in the world” as he reacted to the news that his former Munster and Ireland team-mate had called time on his illustrious career at the age of 36.
O'Connell was due to continue his career with Toulon, but the gravity of the hamstring injury that ended his World Cup campaign has also decimated his plans for a sojourn in France before saying au revoir to the game.
Speaking from Ireland’s Carton House training base ahead of Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash with France in Paris on Saturday, Ryan said: “I’m very disappointed for Paul.
“I’m sure it was not a decision he took lightly.
“He was the ultimate professional, a fantastic leader, an incredible rugby player, an incredible competitor.
“He’s probably the most competitive man you’d suit up alongside.
“He was fantastic to learn from from a lineout point of view and, without doubt, he is the best second row in the world, and he’s definitely inspired a lot of younger people out there and the majority of the team here as well.”
Ryan’s immediate focus is on the Stade de France encounter on Saturday, with the Munster man confident he and his team-mates are equipped to cope with the six-day turnaround.
“As professionals, at this stage we’re really accustomed to the schedules that are put in front of us,” Ryan added.
“It’s more important for us to be recovering properly - to do our reviews and do our previews for the week.
“We’d a good review yesterday and this morning and we’d a good training session out in the snow this morning, which was good, nice and fresh.
“A run around in the ice cold was good, it did wake up a lot of guys!”
France may have only laboured to a 23-21 win over Italy in their opener, but Ryan won’t be underestimating the threat that the hosts pose.
“Looking at the game from last week, in the first half alone the style of play that their approaching is very creative and exciting,” he said.
“Nineteen offloads in the first half is pretty impressive, obviously that comes with its own risks as well.
“They do have fantastic line-breakers - Fofana, Danty - even in the pack they have Chouly, Camara, Lauret - very big guys, very big ball carriers and at set-pieces theyre very, very good.”