Lions veteran Paul O’Connell says the pressure of touring New Zealand made him take up smoking and also cost him his relationship with his partner.
The 2005 trip to New Zealand was the first of O’Connell’s three tours with the Lions and the toughest as Sir Clive Woodward’s side were whitewashed by the All Blacks.
O’Connell revealed the pressures of the tour and the loneliness of single rooms at their waterfront hotel caused him to turn to smoking.
“It doesn’t get any harder than a trip to New Zealand,” O’Connell told the BBC
“On that tour we were rooming on our own and I had a balcony overlooking the harbour.
“I don’t know what I was doing, but I used to have the odd cigarette, sitting on my own. I was worried that I’d smell of cigarettes so I started brushing my teeth.
“I decided then that if I could get anything out of the tour I might have white teeth. But I brushed my gums away.
The former Munster and Ireland captain said he visited a dentist on his return to Ireland from the tour because his teeth had become so sensitive.
“My teeth were in agony … the dentist told me I’d be stuck with crappy gums for the rest of my life,”
O’Connell had smoked when he was younger, mainly while out drinking with his mates, but that went to another level in New Zealand.
“I look absolutely ridiculous with a cigarette in my hand,” he joked.
He revealed the tough New Zealand tour also took it’s toll on his relationship with his partner, confirming a breakup.
“That was a disaster.”