Anthony Foley plays down talk of Paul O’Connell move to Toulon

Munster coach says he has heard nothing of move which is denied by mega-rich French club

Paul O’Connell is contracted to Munster and Ireland until the end of the 2015-16 season and has been linked with a move to Toulon. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Paul O’Connell is contracted to Munster and Ireland until the end of the 2015-16 season and has been linked with a move to Toulon. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

Paul O’Connell’s move to Toulon this summer won’t happen unless Toulon’s millionaire owner Mourad Boudjellal wants to buy the Ireland captain out of his contract according to Anthony Foley.

The Munster coach insisted that he had heard nothing about the 35-year-old lock possibly leaving the southern province this summer, one year ahead of the end of his contract, but that he wasn’t surprised that a “world class” player like O’Connell was linked with the double European champions, who will lose locks Bakkies Botha and Ali Williams to retirement at the end of the season.

The Ireland captain was absent from training at Musgrave Park on Tuesday because of a shoulder injury, which may keep him out of Saturday’s league tie with Treviso at the Cork venue.

O’Connell has made no secret of his desire to play some rugby in France before the end of his illustrious career, but Foley said he suspects the story has be released to try and derail Munster’s Pro12 drive.

“He is contracted here for another season, so you know, I don’t know. Unless your man wants to buy him out, I don’t know,” Foley said.

“They look at every world class player and I’m sure there is a lot of coaches being asked the same question around what they have and the money that they can afford to spend.

“We’ll all go, we’ll all go, come on. We are all off,” joked Foley. “Where was he (O’Connell) last week? Pau?”

“Look, it’s a nonsense, it’s a nuisance. People are probably trying to cause trouble to try and interfere with our run in. Unless somebody says it to us. I know you write in the media, but we don’t read it. It’s neither here nor there to me.”

Foley may be encouraged by a statement released by the defending European champions denying that they have signed O’Connell.

It read: “Toulon, accustomed to all sorts of rumours about future potential recruits, would like to deny what some see as an information, namely the signing of the Irish international secondrow Paul O’Connell.

“Toulon cautions that Paul O’Connell has not signed a contract with Toulon Rugby Club and the alleged contacts between the player and the Red and Black are pure speculation.”

Meanwhile, O’Connell will be assessed later in the week to see what damage has been done to his shoulder during Munster’s recent bonus-point victory over Edinburgh, but the coach has a ready-made replacement after Donnacha Ryan came through 80 minutes for the Munster A team against Ulster Ravens last week.

“He just got a bang on the shoulder, so it’s nothing major. It’s just something that we have to monitor for the early part of the week.

“We monitored it all last week and we’ll look at it on Thursday. I don’t know, we’ll look at him on Thursday, we’ll see,” said Foley.

“It’s great Donnacha Ryan got through 80 minutes last Thursday up in Banbridge, it was a good hit our for him. It ads a little bit more of depth to our squad. We have guys coming back in who haven’t played a lot of rugby this year and they are coming back in and giving a fresh impetus to the squad.”

Denis Hurley, who has skippered the side in Peter O’Mahony’s international absence, is also a doubt with an hamstring injury, while new signing Tyler Bleyendaal will not be ready to play on Saturday, but will see a specialist on Wednesday to assess his progress.

“Tyler is over there running and running hard. He is after a good contact block so we’ll get him to see the specialist and docs tomorrow and see where we go from there. He wont be available from Treviso but we’ll dig from there,” Foley said.

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