18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
The wife of the 27-year-old ACT Brumbies' hooker has an English passport making Paul, who has played 44 Tests, an even more attractive prospect for rich English clubs because he won't be included in their import quota.
Saracens, where his former ACT teammate and close friend Rod Kafer is coach, is a strong option.
Wallaby coach Eddie Jones said Paul, rated one of the most gifted hookers in world rugby despite being number two behind Brendan Cannon in the national team, remained important to Australian rugby. "If he doesn't want to play in Australia then that's a decision he makes. I know he's been offered a very good contract that would keep him in Australia," Jones said on Tuesday.
"We want him to stay in Australia, we'd like him to, but ultimately he's got to do what he feels is right for his career."
Paul said he planned to make a decision on his playing future in the next month. "I just have to weigh up where I'm at in my career and I've been doing that for the last four to six weeks," Paul said.
"Once I got married at the end of last year, my personal ambition as a rugby player definitely changed, you're not playing for yourself anymore, you're looking after your family."
He said the attraction of playing in Europe was the ability for the couple to travel and "have some fun".
His ACT teammates and fellow Wallabies Joe Roff and David Giffin have already announced Saturday's Super 12 final against the Crusaders will be their last for the Brumbies and Paul admitted it would be a good way to bow out. "I suppose a lot of people have been saying it's a good way to finish ... to finish on a high with the guys we've been playing with would be great," he said.
Former Test prop Andrew Blades has been appointed Wallabies' new forwards coach, national coach Jones announced today.
Jones said Blades had the background and skills to step up as an assistant coach after previous coaching spells with Australia's under-21 team, the ACT Brumbies and Newcastle Falcons in England.
Blades has replaced Ewen McKenzie, who left the Wallabies after last year's World Cup to become head coach at the NSW Waratahs. "We're very lucky to have Bladesy, he was obviously a very good player for the Wallabies, did some coaching with the Brumbies and had two years as a professional coach in Newcastle," Jones told reporters.
"So he brings a lot of expertise to the coaching team and the team in general."
Jones said a decision on the backs coach of the national team will be made in the next few weeks.
Narbonne's Argentine international back rower Gonzalo Longo and hooker Brice Miguel have signed for two seasons with top flight French rugby union outfit Montferrand.
The contract for 28-year-old Longo can be extended for a further year.
New Zealand-born French international centre Tony Marsh will stay with Montferrand for a third season, with negotiations ongoing for a further extension until 2006, the club added.
AFP - 2004.