Paul O'Connell: Rugby "almost unrecognisable" in terms of discipline now

Ex-Ireland captain discusses his autobiography with Off The Ball

Paul O'Connell

Paul O'Connell ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Former Ireland rugby captain Paul O'Connell says improvements in discipline have made the game "almost unrecognisable" to his early time in the sport.

The ex-second row recently published his autobiography The Battle and sat down with Off The Ball for an in-depth chat.

The book features a couple of stories about training ground scraps.

But O'Connell says the game has changed immeasurably from those early days of his career. 

"If you look at a rugby match now, there's no foul play whatsoever. That's one thing that World Rugby has completely eradicated from the game. It used to be part and parcel to the game. If two guys dig the head off each other, the referee would make them shake hands and go back and play. But now that's a red card all day and night and you'll get a long suspension. But when I started, it wasn't like that," he said.

"If someone tried to do something to you, you couldn't let him away with it - even if it meant a penalty against your team. Now, that is what you do. You do not retaliate. Getting the penalty, getting the three points, getting 60 metres down the pitch, we've obviously worked out is way better for the team. But that was the attitude and culture back then."   

He added that the rugby is "almost unrecognisable in terms of discipline now".

One moment he recalled was the time his former Ireland and Munster team-mate Mick Galwey kicked him in the proverbials in a McDonald's as a prank.

"He pulled down my pants and then someone else lined up behind to get their foot in on my pants so I couldn't get them back up," he laughed.

But he also praised the Galwey generation for fostering "an amazing team culture and environment, that early Munster team in terms of how well the older guys looked after the younger guys".

"I just think it was the personality that Galwey had. He absolutely loved all the young guys that came into Munster and he looked after us," he said.  

O'Connell also spoke warmly of his close relationship with his parents, as well as recalling his memories of taking on his brother in many a sport as a child.