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Paul O'Connell addresses rumours linking him with Munster return

By Ian Cameron
Paul O'Connell (Getty Images)

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Ireland great Paul O’Connell has dashed hopes that he will be returning to Munster anytime soon, ruling himself out of the running for the soon-to-be-vacant position of head coach role.

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Current Munster head honcho Johann van Graan will leave the province at the end of the current season to take over the reins at ailing Gallagher Premiership outfit Bath.

Since Van Graan’s exit was made public, speculation has been rife as to who will take up the role of the famous Limerick-based side. Both O’Connell and fellow Munster legend Ronan O’Gara had been heavily linked with a return to the province in what is one of the most high-profile roles in Irish sport.

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But now both have effectively ruled themselves out of the running, with O’Connell saying he doesn’t feel he is qualified to take over the role.

The 42-year-old, who was capped 108 times by Ireland and played at four World Cups, took on the role of forwards coach with the national team 12 months ago. The ex-lock took over from former teammate Simon Easterby. Despite lifting the Heineken Champions Cup with Munster in 2006 and 2008, the Limerick man doesn’t feel he’s ready to make a prodigal return to the set-up.

“Well, look, I won’t be doing it,” O’Connell told The 2 Johnnies podcast. “I wouldn’t be qualified to do it. I was saying the other day, it’s like a guy if you were good at pulling pints being asked to run the bar! They’re two different things. I don’t know who will end up doing it.

“I don’t know. Munster is a very special thing to me. I’d have to feel very right and very qualified to go and do it.

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“I just have the most amazing memories with Munster and I’d hate to ever hurt them by getting involved and not doing a good job of it.”

In December O’Gara – who is admittedly further along in his coaching career than O’Connell – said that he would be honouring his current contract with La Rochelle in the Top 14.

Meanwhile former Munster and Ireland head coach Declan Kidney, who now presides over London Irish, is yet to officially rule himself out.

He told the press last month that: “Jobs like that and positions like that, there is always going to be speculation and I am very happy here at London Irish and I enjoy working with the lads. I have too much respect for my present job and for Munster and the Irish RFU to get into any hypothetical conversation.”

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Last week Munser forwards coach Graham Rowntree agreed a two-year extension to his contract and could potentially be in the running for the top job.

“I have made my thoughts about this club widely known throughout my time so far, and for me and my family it really has been an easy decision – a non-decision if truth be told,” Rowntree told Munster’s official website. “We’ve put down roots here and have no desire to move anywhere else.

“I know there will be coaching personnel changes at the end of this season, but from where I’m standing I know that we have everything in place for continued development and success.”

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