There was no preordained farewell for Coughlan, just a sickening Pro12 semi defeat to Glasgow. Billy Stickland/INPHO

Lack of international caps Coughlan's driving force for France switch

Former Munster teammate David Wallace has paid tribute to the Pau-bound forward.

HE MAY HAVE been a late starter in provincial rugby but James Coughlan certainly made an impact in Munster red.

The 33-year-old back row played 139 times for his home province after finally break through to the squad in 2006. He was 32 when Declan Kidney called him up to captain Ireland Wolfhounds against England. He was included in two senior Ireland squads, under Kidney and new Ireland boss Joe Schmidt, but a long-awaited Test debut never materialised.

Schmidt named a 30-man team to tour Argentina on 19 May and included No.8′s Jamie Heaslip and the versatile Jordi Murphy. Robin Copeland, Munster’s new signing from Cardiff, was included in the Emerging Ireland squad a week later. The announcement was followed, 24 hours on, by news of Coughlan’s summer move to Pau, in France’s Pro D2. Former Munster teammate David Wallace believes the timing was not a coincidence.

He told “If James thought that he even had an outside chance with Ireland, I believe, he would have stuck around. The senior and emerging squads were announced and he knew the writing was on the wall. It is odd that one of Munster’s most consistent players never got a look-in with the Test side.”

Wallace and Coughlan played together for six seasons and both came from a Sevens rugby background. He believes the shorter form of the game improved Coughlan’s attacking game and stood to him as an explosive ball carrier. It was only a matter of time, he adds, before the Cork native made his Munster bow.

“He was immense for Dolphin in the All-Ireland League. Whenever he played, Dolphin generally won. The retirement of Axel [Anthony Foley in 2008] meant there was a real opening at 8 and James grabbed his chance when it came along.” Coughlan, explains his former packmate, was the epitome of the committed squad player during his initial three seasons but was given greater responsibility in 2009/10 and never looked back.

David Wallace and James Coughlan look on anxiously during the closing minutes Wallace with Coughlan in 2011 during Munster's Challenge Cup clash with Brive. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Wallace added, “He was an unsung player, which is an oxymoron in itself. He won that [Unsung Hero] honour at the IRUPA awards but he really could have been up for it each year he played. His Munster teammates, and his supporters knew his worth.”

Pau missed out on promotion to the Top 14 but Wallace believes they may well get over the line next season with Coughlan driving them on. “Fair play to him for making the move and taking on a new challenge,” he said. “This may be his final pro contract and if anybody deserves a financial reward it would be James.”

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