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Paul O'Connell Reveals Crazy Irish Training Altercation Before '07 World Cup

Paul O'Connell Reveals Crazy Irish Training Altercation Before '07 World Cup
Gavin Cooney
By Gavin Cooney
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The 2007 Rugby World Cup remains a uniquely abundant well of misery and madness.

Its unique disappointment will forever cast a pall over Irish rugby, as expectations took on the form of a kind of wild, dysfunctional virus that got beneath everybody's skin, as the 'best-prepared Irish team ever' were driven mad by ambition.

Ireland's profound emphasis on preparation left them totally burnt-out by the time the actual competition swung round.

With every Irish rugby comes another insight into those absurd weeks in the build-up to the competition, and Paul O'Connell's The Battle is no different.


It's a pretty wild story, and the one which taught O'Connell that he had to reign in his aggression in training.

We'll let the great man take it from here...

In training, I continued getting into scraps, until the day in 2007 when I realised that a lot of us had become so powerful through lifting weights that a single punch could hurt someone badly.

It happened at an Ireland camp before the World Cup, when Eddie was close to naming his squad for France. We were training at the University of Limerick and Ryan Caldwell, the Ulster second-row, was trying to make an impression.

He'd been spoling rucks all week, making a nuisance of himself. That was all fair enough - he was like me at the same age - but when he put me on the floor with a tackle in a non-contact session my went and I got up and threw a punch.

I didn't think I hit him too hard, but my right hand struck the side of his face and he went down, unconscious. What I didn't know then was that one of his teeth had burst his cheek and he was swallowing a lot of blood.

The rest of us had to move away when the team doctor, Gary O'Driscoll, rushed over to him.

I kept looking over, from a distance, and the situation just kept getting worse and worse. Gary was trying to recusitate him and he had blood all over his mouth. He was roaring for an ambulance. Then he started cutting the jersey off Ryan.

I was shaking by the time the ambulance came to take him away. I was starting to fear the worst, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one thinking that.

The ambulance drove off and Eddie came across the pitch towards us.

'What's the story?', I asked him.

The story is, you nearly killed him'.

O'Connell goes on to write that by the time O'Sullivan had issued these words, the medics had stabilized Caldwell. O'Connell calls it the 'worst moment' of his career, and apologised to the squad the following day, saying that he had undermined team morale.

He also revealed that he received a lot of support from teammates, and that Caldwell was supportive also, saying that 'you didn't mean it to happen'.



See Also: Player Ratings As Leinster Dismantle Munster At The Aviva

See Also: 'No One Called Me Psycho' - Paul O'Connell Was On The Late Late Show Last Night

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