James Coughlan to head for France after being released by Munster
JAMES COUGHLAN is set to link up with departing Munster backs coach Simon Mannix at French club Pau after Munster agreed to release their No.8 a year earlier than planned.
As first reported in Saturday's Irish Independent, the New Zealander has made the Corkman a priority target for next season.
The Dolphin man was contracted until 2015, but approached the province to secure an early release after receiving an offer from the second tier side.
The impending arrival of Robin Copeland, the form of CJ Stander and the emergence of Paddy Butler and Jack O'Donoghue should soften the blow, but the 34-year-old has been one of the province's top performers over the past few seasons.
He has made 139 appearances for Munster since his debut in 2006.
Mannix has taken over as directeur sportif at the ProD2 club who finished fourth in the race for promotion this season.
"This was a difficult decision for me to make. I was presented with an opportunity that I had to take for myself and my young family as we plan for our future. I want to thank Garrett (Fitzgerald) and the Professional Game Committee for their support in facilitating my request to leave the province," Coughlan said.
"Playing for Munster has been a dream come through. I never thought I would have achieved what I have and the whole experience has been life-changing.
"I am so thankful for my career and the incredible support I have received along the way. It is with the heaviest of hearts that I am leaving but an amazing challenge awaits me and my family.
"My wife Katri and children Finn, Aoibhinn and Elsie have been an incredible support and we are really looking forward to the next chapter of our lives.
"I want to wish the Munster Rugby squad, staff and supporters all the success for the future and the five of us will continue to cheer you on.”
Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald paid tribute to a provincial stalwart.
"James is an honest and committed player with a terrific work-rate, and he has delivered over and over again for Munster," he said.
"He is an example to all aspiring players – dedication and hard-work at club level secured his fate as he broke into professional rugby and excelled as a player, something we are extremely thankful for.
"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.”