IRELAND captain Paul O'Connell will be released from his IRFU contract at the end of the Rugby World Cup.
O'Connell, who is expected to sign a two year deal with French giants Toulon, will also retire from international rugby when Ireland's World Cup involvement is finished.
Despite being contracted to the IRFU until next summer the IRFU and Munster are happy to allow O'Connell fulfil his wish to 'experience new environments'.
Having made 178 appearances for Munster and earned 101 caps for Ireland O'Connell has also been a British & Irish Lions tourist on three occasions.
Philip Browne, IRFU CEO said: “Paul has been a fantastic servant to Irish Rugby. Over the course of his 101 Ireland caps to date he has set the standard for the model Irish professional.
"His contribution to Irish rugby is immeasurable in terms of not only driving success on the field but also raising the profile of Irish Rugby around the world.”
Munster Rugby CEO Garret Fitzgerald also praised O'Connell's rich contribution to the sport. “In wishing Paul all the best for the future I would like to acknowledge the outstanding role he has played within Munster Rugby.
"Over a 14 year career with the province, Paul has epitomised what it means to wear the red jersey, and through his own hard-work, commitment and leadership he has become an iconic figure in world rugby."
"A truly great ambassador for the province, he has been the standard-bearer of this team for over a decade and everyone around him has reaped the benefits of his professionalism and dedication.
"We would like to think this is not the final chapter in Paul's Munster story, and we would welcome future opportunities to work with him again.”
O'Connell is looking forward to embracing a new challenge. “I would like to thank Munster Rugby and the IRFU for releasing me from my contract at the end of the Rugby World Cup,” O'Connell said.
“I have been hugely fortunate to play with one of the greatest sporting organisations in the world and as a proud Limerick, Munster and Irishman, I will forever treasure my association with Munster Rugby.
“After the World Cup I would like to experience new environments, and it is my genuine hope and ambition that I will have some future involvement with Munster and Irish Rugby.
"I would also like to thank all Munster and Irish Rugby fans for their support and I look forward to them showing why they are regarded as the best supporters in world rugby as Ireland travel to the Rugby World Cup in England in September.”