Munster cut Coughlan deal to leave early and join Pau
Pau's new directeur sportif Simon Mannix has pulled off a coup by persuading Munster No 8 James Coughlan to leave the province a year early to take up a contract in the south of France.
As revealed in Saturday's Irish Independent, the departing Munster backs coach made the Corkman a major target for his new club despite his contract running for another season.
Coughlan approached Munster with a view to securing an early release from the deal he signed in January last year and, having agreed to let him go early, he will now finish up at the end of June. The Dolphin man has been one of Munster's key leaders in recent seasons and was a standout performer in their Heineken Cup semi-final defeat to Toulon.
Despite his impressive displays at provincial level, he has never gained senior Ireland recognition, although he played in an uncapped game against the Barbarians, for Ireland 'A' and for the Ireland Sevens team.
With Robin Copeland arriving this summer he was facing increased competition for a starting berth next season. His departure will also open the door for Paddy Butler and Ireland U-20 captain Jack O'Donoghue to break through.
The popular No 8 was a late arrival into the professional game, having made his name in the All-Ireland League, but he has rarely let Munster down since making his debut in 2006.
"It is hard for us to release such a valuable asset but we fully support James and his family and wish them all the best with their move," said Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald.
"James is an honest and committed player with a terrific work-rate, and he has delivered over and over again for Munster.
"He is an example to all aspiring players – dedication and hard work at club level secured his fate as he broke into pro rugby and excelled."