Munster Rugby have confirmed that experienced back rower James Coughlan will leave the province at the end of June.
James Coughlan is currently contracted to the province until June 2015 but Munster have accepted the player’s request for an early release from contract and support him in his decision to move abroad. It is believed that he will join French club Pau.
After playing 139 times for Munster and scoring 13 tries, Coughlan played his final game for the province against Glasgow Warriors in the RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final at Scotstoun Stadium on May 16.
A late arrival to the professional game, he joined Munster at 26 years of age after impressive performances at club level with Dolphin in the All-Ireland League.
The back rower made his debut against Cardiff Blues in September 2006 at the Arms Park, and went on to make his Heineken Cup debut the following January against Leicester Tigers at Thomond Park.
Battling for places in a highly contested area the Corkman soon established himself as a regular in the squad, and over eight seasons has become one of Munster’s leading stars.
Recognised for his consistent and outstanding performances, he has been an integral part of the Munster pack.
His breakthrough season came in 2010/11 when he captained Munster to a memorable 15-6 victory over Australia at Thomond Park and claimed the Munster Rugby Player of the Year award.
He was again shortlisted for the honour in 2012 and again this season, after playing on 25 occasions, scoring four tries and claiming three man-of-the-match awards. His journey also includes a Heineken Cup title in 2008 and two Celtic League crowns in 2009 and 2011.
While full international recognition has eluded him, Coughlan, who turns 34 in December, has played for the Ireland Sevens team and featured in the uncapped game against the Barbarians in May 2012, before captaining the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds against England Saxons in January 2013.
On confirming his move away from Munster, Coughlan said: “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.
“Playing for Munster has been a dream come true. 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 squad, staff and supporters all the success for the future and the five of us will continue to cheer you on!”
Commenting on Coughlan’s departure, Munster Rugby CEO Garrett Fitzgerald added: “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 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.”