'Proud' Paul O'Connell thanks the IRFU for releasing him from Munster contract early
The IRFU and Munster have expectedly confirmed that Paul O'Connell will be released from his contract at Munster after this autumn's Rugby World Cup and will be retiring from international rugby.
The decision paves the way for the Limerick man's move to Toulon after the tournament is concluded.
The IRFU have accepted O'Connell's request to be released from his contract early "given his exceptional contribution to the sport".
O'Connell said: "I would like to thank Munster Rugby and the IRFU for releasing me from my contract at the end of the Rugby World Cup. I have been hugely fortunate to play with one of the greatest sporting organisations in the world and as a proud Limerick, Munster and Irishman, I will forever treasure my association with Munster Rugby. 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.
"I would also like to thank all Munster and Irish Rugby fans for their support and I look forward to them showing why they are regarded as the best supporters in world rugby as Ireland travel to the Rugby World Cup in England in September.”
O'Connell made his senior Munster debut in August 2001 away to Edinburgh and has represented the province on 178 occasions. With Munster, Paul has won two European Cups (2006, 2008), three League titles (2003, 2009, 2011) and a Celtic Cup in 2005.
Paul made his Ireland debut against Wales in February 2002 and has won 101 caps for his country. With Ireland, Paul has won a Grand Slam (2009), led his country to two RBS 6 Nations championship titles (2014, 2015) and claimed four Triple Crowns (2004, 2006, 2007, 2009).
In 2009, Paul led the British and Irish Lions Tour of South Africa. A three time Lions Tourist (2005, 2009, 2013) Paul played in a total of 7 Lions Tests and was a member of the Series winning side in Australia in 2013.
Philip Browne, IRFU CEO added: "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."
"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.”
Garrett Fitzgerald, Munster Rugby CEO commented: "In wishing Paul all the best for the future I would like to acknowledge the outstanding role he has played within Munster Rugby."
"Over a 14 year career with the province, Paul has epitomised what it means to wear the red jersey, and through his own hard-work, commitment and leadership he has become an iconic figure in world rugby."
"A truly great ambassador for the province, he has been the standard-bearer of this team for over a decade and everyone around him has reaped the benefits of his professionalism and dedication.”
"We would like to think this is not the final chapter in Paul's Munster story, and we would welcome future opportunities to work with him again.”