The IRFU are waiting for Paul O’Connell to say the word and the union will intergrate him into the coaching structure within Irish rugby.
David Nucifora, the union’s performance director, explained yesterday that discussions about a coaching career had already taken place with O’Connell before he finished up as a player.
Although Munster’s coaching backroom team is in a state of flux until incoming director of rugby Rassie Erasmus announces his staff, Nucifora and the IRFU are eager for O’Connell to take up a role that could come at national level.
“We’ve been chatting with Paul about what his future looks like. He’ll make his decision when he’s ready about what exactly he wants to do, but we’ve been in touch with Paul, we were speaking to Paul before he retired about what the future might look like,” Nucifora said.
“You don’t want to waste a resource like Paul O’Connell, he’s got a lot to offer Irish rugby going forward. We’re just working with Paul to work out the best way of utlilising what he brings to our game.”
The former Munster, Ireland and Lions captain retired this year due to injury which scuppered his move to Toulon and since then the Limerick man has been spotted touring around a number of French and English clubs to see how they operate.
Thanks to Conor O’Shea at Harlequins and Bernard Jackman and Mike Prendergast at Grenoble, O’Connell has been able to observe new rugby environments and see what different structures and cultures can offer compared to his own experiences with province and country.
O’Connell has a strong friendship with Prendergast, who was able to select the legendary second row for Young Munster in the Ulster Bank League while O’Connell also helped out at training on occasion at Greenfields.
“He came into work with me [at Grenoble], had a couple of conversations with coaches and players and likewise they were asking him questions,” Prendergast said.
“It was great for them to pull at a bit of his experience and Paul enjoyed it as well, to see things from a French perspective so it was a good experience for everybody.”
Nucifora also confirmed that the union were taking an increased interest in how Munster are developing in the post-O’Connell era, particularly after Anthony Foley has seen Erasmus recruited to work above him in the province.
Last season proved particularly challenging for Foley as where injuries and retirements to key players placed a lot of pressure on less experienced players which meant Munster only secured their Champions Cup place on the final day of the season.
However, Nucifora believes that despite a rocky campaign, Munster’s reputation remains as robust as ever.
“We do [need a strong Munster team]. We are working closely with them now and continue to work closely with them,” Nucifora said.
“We’re really fortunate that Munster and Irish rugby can attract a coach of the calibre of Rassie Erasmus to go and take over the reins down there. That speaks volumes for where Munster and Irish rugby are positioned in the world.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved