DONNCHA O’CALLAGHAN IS close to sealing a two-year contract with Worcester Warriors after Munster agreed to release him from the last season of his deal in Ireland.
O’Callaghan has played for Munster in the pre-season.
The 36-year-old lock has been granted permission by the province to seek out regular first-team rugby, as first reported by the Irish Examiner, with head coach Anthony Foley feeling that O’Callaghan’s superb service has earned him the right to do so.
The42 understands that O’Callaghan has been speaking to Dean Ryan’s Warriors in recent weeks regarding a move. Worcester were promoted from the Championship last season after beating favourites Bristol in the two-legged play-off final.
It’s believed there was also some interest in the Irishman from France, but it is now expected that O’Callaghan will copper-fasten a move to Worcester ahead of the start of the Premiership season on 16 October.
Given that O’Callaghan’s contract with Munster is also tied to the IRFU, The42 understands the union’s high performance director David Nucifora will also have to sign off on the lock’s early release.
Irish second row Darren O’Shea, formerly of the Munster academy, is already on the books at Worcester and played an important role in their promotion. Former Ireland U20 captain and Ulster hooker Niall Annett was a key man in a successful season under Ryan.
Ex-Ireland U18 international Charlie Mulchrone is also part of the Warriors squad.
O’Callaghan’s starting opportunities at Munster were limited to just 11 last season, all of those coming in the Guinness Pro12. The 94-times capped Ireland international second row did not play a single minute of Munster’s disappointing Champions Cup campaign.
The Cork man has remained in phenomenal physical condition for a player of his age thanks to his relentless attitude towards training and his lifestyle away from the pitch. O’Callaghan is teetotal and constantly on the lookout for the latest recovery technologies.
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O’Callaghan alongside Dave Foley, whose importance to Munster has grown.
The departure of Paul O’Connell to Toulon appeared to have seen O’Callaghan’s potential opportunities at Munster improve, but the subsequent signing of Australian lock Mark Chisholm would have been a frustration for him.
O’Callaghan’s departure will leave Munster’s locking stocks filled by Ireland internationals Dave Foley and Donnacha Ryan, veteran Chisholm, the reliable Billy Holland and highly-rated academy pair Sean McCarthy and John Madigan.
Elsewhere, the proposed transfer of South African scrum-half Conrad Hoffman to Leinster is set to fall through.
The Sharks halfback was close to joining the province on a short-term contract for the World Cup period, but Ireland’s decision to leave Isaac Boss out of their 31-man squad means head coach Leo Cullen can call on Boss’ experience for the start of the season.
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