As any Irish rugby fan worth their salt will already know, the big news emerging from the country’s southernmost province yesterday was that Munster stalwart James Coughlan will be departing for French shores next season. The Dolphin RFC man will be released from his contract a year early (by his own request) and leaves to join French second division side Pau, bringing with him the well-wishes of every loyal Munster supporter. John Elliott provides five facts about Coughlan’s new club that you might not yet know.
1. Who They Are
Known as Pau, or ‘La Section’, the club’s official name is Section Paloise. The Rugby Pro D2 outfit is located in Pau (hence the name) in Pyrénées-Atlantique, a region in the South-West of France. Coughlan will be playing his home matches with his new club at their stadium, Stade du Hameau, which has a capacity of 13,819.
2. Recent History
Pau reached the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup in 1998, losing to Bath who would go on to beat Brive to claim the title that year. ‘La Section’ also reached the semis of the Top 14 in 2000, and won the European Challenge Cup in the same year. Unfortunately, Pau found themselves relegated to the French second division at the end of the 2005/6 season, where they have remained ever since. Pau finished in 4th position on the Rugby Pro D2 table this year, earning them a promotion play-off semi-final place which they ultimately lost to their fierce rivals La Rochelle.
3. Most Famous Sons
French internationals Imanol Harinordoquy, Damien Traille, and Lionel Beauxis all began their careers at ‘La Section’. Interestingly, Coughlan plays in the same position as the great number eight Harinordoquy. Perhaps the Munster man, for so long snubbed by Irish national selectors, has a cunning plan to follow in Harinordoquy’s footsteps and break into the French squad…but then again, perhaps not.
4. Coughlan’s New Teammates
One player of note that Coughlan will be joining forces with is Tongan winger Saia Fekitoa. Now this name might not ring too many bells, but Saia is the older brother of Malakai Fekitoa, the Highlanders outside centre who is currently tearing up the Super 15 and has been named in the current All Black Squad. Perhaps Coughlan has devised a cunning plan to use this new contact to receive a well-deserved international cap with Tonga, or maybe even New Zealand…but then again, perhaps not.
5. Passion and Fire
Pau made headlines for the wrong reasons in 2013 when a brawl broke in a match with their old friends La Rochelle. Three players received red cards following the fracas, which was described as resembling a street fight. So it seems Pau are a hard-playing, passionate, fiery rugby club, I am sure James Coughlan is going to feel right at home.
John Elliott, Pundit Arena
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