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Ireland's O'Connell set to bow out

Paul O'Connell will play his final game for Ireland at this autumn's World Cup after the Irish Rugby Football Union confirmed he has been granted early release from his contract.

O'Connell is set to join Toulon upon completion of England 2015, with the IRFU agreeing to terminate his agreement with Munster in recognition of his contribution to his province and national team.

The Ireland captain, however, hinted at his desire for a return home in a coaching capacity once his playing days are over.

"After the World Cup I'd like to experience new environments and it is my genuine hope and ambition that I will have some future involvement with Munster and Irish rugby," O'Connell said.

"I would like to thank Munster and the IRFU for releasing me from my contract at the end of the World Cup. As a proud Limerick, Munster and Irishman, I will forever treasure my association with Munster Rugby."

O'Connell has won 101 caps and will lead Ireland's assault on the looming World Cup, a tournament they enter as Six Nations champions.

The 35-year-old was captain of the 2009 British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa and also toured in 2005 and 2013, playing in a total of seven Tests.

"Paul has been a fantastic servant to Irish rugby. Over the course of his 101 Ireland caps to date he has set the standard for the model Irish professional," IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said.

"His contribution to Irish rugby is immeasurable in terms of not only driving success on the field but also raising the profile of Irish Rugby around the world."

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