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Irish chiefs pave the way for Paul O'Connell's Toulon deal

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

The IRFU have cleared the way for Paul O'Connell to complete his £875,000 move to Toulon by agreeing to release the Ireland captain from his contract after this year's World Cup campaign comes to an end.

The Munster second-row will retire from international rugby at the end of that tournament, to be held in autumn, and while the statement issued by the union and Munster Rugby yesterday did not give away his next move, he admitted that he wanted to "experience new environments".

The union cited the 101-times-capped Ireland international's "exceptional service" in their reasoning behind the decision to release him from his contract nine months early to facilitate the move.

O'Connell met with union officials to secure that release, outlining his desire to finish his career in France with the three-time European champions. Toulon have identified the 35-year-old as the ideal signing.

Both O'Connell and Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald expressed their wish that this would not be the final chapter in their relationship, and the player could use his move to the Top 14 as a pathway into coaching.

"I have been hugely fortunate to play with one of the greatest sporting organisations in the world. I will forever treasure my association with Munster," said O'Connell.

"After the World Cup I would 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."

Meanwhile, John Fogarty is set to take over from Marco Caputo as Leinster's scrum coach after the province confirmed that the Australian has followed his compatriot Matt O'Connor out of the exit door.

Fogarty, a former Ireland international, is currently working as an elite player development officer with the province and it is understood that the Cork native rejected an offer from Connacht to become their forwards coach in favour of remaining with Leinster.

The 37-year old represented Leinster, Munster and Connacht across his nine-year career before being forced into retirement after suffering repeated concussions.

As well as working closely with the Leinster academy, Fogarty is also scrum coach with the Ireland U-20s, who are currently competing in the World Championship in Italy.

Caputo replaced Greg Feek as Leinster's scrum coach but spent just one season in Dublin before resigning from the role yesterday.

"I believe that my decision will give the new coaching and management staff the best chance of a fresh start for the new season," Caputo said.

"I have enjoyed the experience immensely and I have loved my short but very eventful 12 months in Ireland and being part of the Leinster environment."

CONNACHT'S elite player development officer Jimmy Duffy has emerged as the favourite to take over from Dan McFarland as the province's assistant coach.

McFarland left his post at the end of the season to join Glasgow Warriors, and the Westerners are said to be keen to promote Duffy as Pat Lam's No 2.

Duffy has spent several years involved in the Ireland U-18s coaching set-up and if, as expected, he takes up the new role, it will represent a significant step up in his career. The province's former back-rower joined the coaching staff in 2011 and has seen his reputation grow.

As well as coaching the academy, Duffy has also been heavily involved with the Connacht Eagles in recent seasons.

Former Munster winger Mossy Lawler was recently appointed as an elite player development officer with Connacht and will work under academy manager and current Ireland U-20 coach Nigel Carolan.

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