When it was announced last month that Paul O'Connell would be taking up a coaching role with Stade Francais, it was viewed as the first step on a path with obvious destinations: one day becoming head coach of Munster and then Ireland.
Speaking on 2FM's Game On on Wednesday night, O'Connell said there is no grand plan in choosing the Top 14 for his first big job as a coach. It was mainly just about a desire he's always held to live in France and learn the language.
"People don’t seem to believe me when I say there’s no real long-term plan in going to Paris," said O'Connell who is forwards coach with Stade.
For me to go to Paris, I always wanted to live in France.
I was lucky enough in Munster that I was able to be a professional sportsperson right on my own doorstep. I lived ten minutes away from where I grew up and played for one of the best professional rugby teams in Europe. It just meant I didn't get an opportunity to travel.
So for me, this was a chance to travel, live in a great city, immerse myself in coaching and see is this what I want to do while learning a language and meeting some good people.
The 38-year-old said that his biggest challenge so far has been the communication barrier.
"It’s one of the reasons I’m over there, as much as the coaching. I’ve always wanted to learn the language. It’s one of the reasons I was going to go over to Toulon towards the end of my career.
"The only problem is that English in the chosen language spoken in the coaching room because we have Heyneke Meyer (head coach), John McFarland (defence coach), Peter de Villiers, so many of the staff speak English so I’m probably speaking too much English and it doesn’t help me learn.
"I’m trying to figure out as many ways as I can to speak French.
"I do classes in the club. One of the physios in the club, his dad used to work in IBM and is retired and actually teaches refugees French voluntarily and he does lessons with me over the phone.
"I listen to Coffee Break French - I have a Michel Thomas thing on my phone - Johnny Sexton recommended him to me. I’m trying to hit it as many ways as I can and I’d love after Christmas to be able to coach as much as I can in French.
"I’d say I do about 10 per cent now and Peter de Villiers translates, or else one of the players translates. It’s difficult, but it is what it is and you just have to roll with it."
Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile