The IRFU have cleared the way for Paul O'Connell to complete his €1.2m 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, 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."