O’Connell heaps praise on de Villiers

Date published: September 28 2015

Ireland's Paul O'Connell sang the praises of retired Springbok captain Jean de Villiers following his unfortunate exit from the Rugby World Cup.

The centre took a shoulder to his jaw that was broken just months ago, forcing the 34-year-old off the pitch and out of the tournament.

The pair were acquainted when De Villiers spent time playing alongside O'Connell at Munster during the 2009/2010 season.

"He's a great guy, an incredible leader," said the Irish captain.

"He has all the values you admire and want in a captain. And I think World Cups just don't seem to work out for him.

"And it's so disappointing for him, especially to go on the journey he did to come back from his knee injury. And then to pick up a knock on his jaw five weeks ago as well, to get back from that and now to pick up this, it's very disappointing for him. But that's Test rugby.

"He's had a terrific career, he's a fantastic player and I wish him the best in his retirement."

O'Connell added that his loss will be massive blow to South Africa, whose coach Heyneke Meyer has been forced to call up replacement Jan Serfontein. 

"They seem to have a lot of strength in depth but he will be a big loss for them," added the 35-year-old. 

"He's a big leader, he has a lot of experience, defensively he's a very clever player in that backline and he's just a calming influence.

"So they've got some young guys in that backline and he was a good guy to have in there with them. He'll be a big loss."