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09th Jul 2018

Former Munster star Paul Warwick on the message from Galway that changed his life

Patrick McCarry

That week on the town during the Galway Races sounds like some introduction to Irish life.

It was a blessing and a curse that Paul Warwick was such a talent at Sevens rugby.

The Brisbane native was 23 and playing club rugby for Sydney side Manly when he got the chance to go fully professional. With three years of Sevens rugby for Australia behind him, Warwick was able to put together a nifty highlight reel to secure him a move to Ireland.

Unfortunately, as he had played Sevens for his native country, IRB [now World Rugby] rules stated that he could not represent Ireland, even if he met the residency criteria. He was definitely good enough to play Test rugby for Ireland. Warwick ended up staying seven years in Ireland – with Connacht and Munster – claimed some silverware, is fondly regarded by fans of both provinces and got to play international rugby for the Barnarians.

Warwick spoke about the Aussie connections and the message that lured him to Ireland on The Hard Yards [from 37:00 below] and fondly recalled his time with both provinces.

“A good friend of mine, Andrew Farley, was captain of Connacht at the time [2004],” Warwick recalled.

“I was on the Sevens circuit and he basically sent me a message – ‘We’re looking for a number 10. Are you interested?’

“I sent over a couple of videos. It was back in the day so video cassettes!

“I met Michael Bradley at the IRB [Sevens] tournament in London, signed and was over there two months later.

“I arrived over at the end of July, around race week in Galway. So Jimmy Downey took me under his wing and showed me around Galway on race week. That was impressive.”

Downey, who was in studio for the interview, did not take up the golden opportunity to add colour to Warwick’s story. “He’d be wise not to,” the Australian joked. “I’d have more dirt on him than he would on me!”

The versatile back – he could cover every position bar scrum-half – got a one-year deal at Connacht but an impressive Challenge Cup and league campaign saw him get a two-year extension. He would go on to score 452 points in 72 appearances for the westerners.

Warwick was ‘pretty keen’ to move away from Connacht after his three-season stint out west and see if he had what it took to perform in the upper reaches of the Magners League and Heineken Cup. Again, it was an Aussie connection that set a move in motion.

“I couldn’t understand why people at Leinster, Munster and to a lesser extent, at the time, Ulster didn’t want to come and get a start [at Connacht] and challenge for an international spot by playing against those teams,” he said.

“The argument came back to me that it wasn’t affecting their selection for Ireland, because you had guys like Mick O’Driscoll getting picked for Ireland from the bench for Munster.

“So I wanted to get a taste of a big club and be a part of a big club. Tony McGahan had come to Munster a year earlier. So it was him, Jim Williams and Declan Kidney. I met the three of them down in Cork and it seemed like a good fit.

“I had just started dating a girl from Cork and I was happy to move down the road. It worked out pretty well for me, so I was quite fortunate.”

During his four seasons at Munster, Warwick scored 461 points in 95 appearances and helped the province to Heineken Cup [2008] and league [2011] glory.

He was keen to stay on at the southern province but the IRFU intervened and no contract extension was offered. On he moved to Stade Francais, where he played under Michael Cheika, and he finished up at Worcester Warriors.

Warwick is now back living Down Under with his wife, Carol, and their two daughters. He is coaching at one of Brisbane’s premier rugby schools and, he says, try his damnedest to locate the heir to Wallabies No.10 Bernard Foley.