Thursday 29 September 2016

'Paul O'Connell was concerned that Toulon were backing out of deal'

Published 16/06/2015 | 20:12

Paul O'Connell has joined Toulon on a two-year deal
Paul O'Connell has joined Toulon on a two-year deal

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell feared that his move to Toulon was in jeopardy after the Top 14 giants "went cold" for no reason last week, before the deal was concluded on deadline day.

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The Munster lock has was finally confirmed as Toulon's latest stellar signing after the talismanic second-row put pen to paper with the reigning Champions Cup winners last night.

O'Connell had been heavily linked with a move to the French giants and, despite reports earlier yesterday that the deal may be in jeopardy, the 35-year-old signed a two-year deal with the Gallic giants.

The Munster legend was in France yesterday ahead of the transfer deadline at midnight.

Read more: Paul O'Connell seals Toulon move at 11th hour

Reports in Monday's Midi Olympique suggested that the move was off over fears of O'Connell's shoulder and rugby reporter Gavin Mortimer told Newstalk's Off The Ball programme tonight that the second row was genuinely fearful that the move would fail to materialise.

Paul O'Connell has signed a two-year deal with Toulon
Paul O'Connell has signed a two-year deal with Toulon

"It was an extraordinary 24 hours and a dragged out for two or three months," he told the programme tonight.

"It was a very strange transfer situation."

Mortimer said that a "reliable Top 14 source" said that the deal "went cold" last week for no reason.

"The French do business in a different way to what we're used to," he added. "They are a bit more laid back. It certainly seems that he [O'Connell] was getting a little concerned about the situation having already been released from his own contract.

"The situation resolved itself in the space of about 10 hours."

Read more: Paul O'Connell - He put the gritty in integrity

Mortimer went on to suggest that it was hard to know for sure if Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal, a long-time admirer of the Limerick native, was genuinely looking for alternatives in the second row.

"In the same report [Midi Olympique] they said they were now looking at the Australian lock Mark Chisholm who had been at Bayonne who were relegated. He's looking to stay in the Top 14.

"Whether there was some truth in that, who knows. It has been a messy situation, but it's resolved now."

O'Connell is not the only foreign star joining the French giants, they also confirmed that South African powerhouse Duane Vermeulen and England prop Matt Stevens have signed on the dotted line.

The Springbok juggernaut was short-listed for the World Player of the Year award in 2014 and is generally regarded as one of the best number 8's on the planet.

Read more: Farewell to a legend - Paul O'Connell's Munster career in pictures

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