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o'connell gets toulon move

All the hulabaloo raised yesterday about the breakdown in Paul O'Connell's transfer to Toulon was nothing more than hot air.

The hysteria erupted in the afternoon when respected French newspaper Midi Olympique reported a long-standing shoulder injury had caused a last minute rupture in negotiations between the European champions and the Ireland captain.

This was taken as an immediate alert to other French clubs, including under-achieving giants Clermont-Auvergne, new French Top-14 champions and Ronan O'Gara's Racing Metro.

The suggestion was that Toulon had already turned to a Plan-B in the form of Australian international lock Mark Chisholm.

This was contradicted later in the evening when local Toulon newspaper pushed out the claim O'Connell had signed his contract as early as Sunday and was tied to the club for one year with an option for another year.

It reported how Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal had been their source to stress how Toulon and O'Connell had been in contact since January.

The building blocks had been put in place for the 35 year-old to step into the boots vacated by Bakkies Botha and Ali Williams as a world-class second row, who commands global respect.

This was then given the official imprimatur of Boudjellal when he confirmed to RTE Sport that the deal had been struck.

O'Connell will leave Munster and Ireland for just under two seasons in France where his special talents will be put to the ultimate test.

It will not just be a retirement home for Ireland's centurion as he bids to succeed the revered Jonny Wilkinson, Hayman and Botha as the outright leader of rugby's version of 'the galacticos.'

The fact Toulon fell at the semi-final to Stade Francais in the Top-14 leaves room for improvement at home. It will be a case of the same again in The Champions Cup as Toulon look to make it four in a row.

p The Ireland U20s were beaten three tries-to-one and 22-12 by Wales in the 5th-8th place play-off semi-final in Viadana last night. Scrum-half Charlie Rock was their try-scorer as they contemplate a 7th-8th place match against Scotland on the final day.