Simon Mannix: I didn’t lure Paul O’Connell to France

Former Munster assistant coach Simon Mannix said he played no part in Paul O’Connell’s move to France and has denied he ever tried to sign the Irish captain for Pau.

Simon Mannix: I didn’t lure Paul O’Connell to France

Mannix, who spent two seasons with Munster under Rob Penney, has guided Pau back to the Top 14 in his first season in charge of the Pyrenees club, but has finally quashed speculation that he tried to lure O’Connell to France.

Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal said that they initially became interested in signing O’Connell when media stories emerged last December linking the former Lions captain with a move to Pau.

James Coughlan — who, like O’Connell, was released a year early from his Munster contract to go to France — was one of the guiding figures in Pau running away with the Pro D2 crown last season.

Two other Munster players, Paddy Butler and Sean Dougall, have joined Pau during the summer as they prepare for the Top 14 for the first time in a decade, but Mannix said he never tried to sign O’Connell because he would not be able to afford him.

“Absolutely not, it was probably his agent who linked that,” said Mannix, as they prepare to open their campaign away to Top 14 champions Stade Francais on Sunday.

“I had absolutely no interest in signing Paul O’Connell, not because I don’t have an immense amount of respect for the character, for the rugby player that he is. Quite simply, it is out of our league that type of player.

“We are trying to do our business the best way we can and there was absolutely never any move made for Paul O’Connell on our part whatsoever. People like to put two and two together and often with rugby rumours you come out with ten.”

Mannix, who was Racing Metro backs coach before moving to Munster, believes O’Connell will do well in France and that it is also a very good move for Toulon as they try to replace retiring World Cup winning locks Bakkies Botha and Ali Williams.

“Paul O’Connell has shown year in, year out that he is one of the best second rows in the world and Toulon have that capacity to sign the superstars.

“It will be a massive change for him. But, as faced by every foreigner, the cultural changes, the lifestyle changes will be a challenge. But he is going to a club where English is probably the first language so that will help him fit it.

“It is a mad, passionate rugby town, a lot like Limerick and Munster in a way, and the expectation he puts on himself I’m sure that he won’t prepare any less than he did for that Munster shirt. He will give the same because he is a thorough professional.”

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