contract talks

IRFU 'very hopeful' of agreeing deal with Kearney despite French links

The 33-year-old fullback’s current contract is due to expire after this year’s World Cup.

THE IRFU INSISTS there is still hope that Rob Kearney will continue to play in Ireland beyond the end of his current contract, which expires after the 2019 World Cup.

The 33-year-old fullback has been linked with a move to French rugby next season as his contract negotiations with the IRFU and Leinster drag on.

Ireland’s Rob Kearney Kearney is out of contract after the World Cup. Inpho / Billy Stickland Inpho / Billy Stickland / Billy Stickland

Kearney’s name was absent from the list of new contract extensions Leinster released this week, but he was also missing from the group of confirmed departing players.

IRFU performance director David Nucifora insisted yesterday that discussions with Kearney are ongoing and that he remains hopeful a deal will be struck.

Kearney is on a central contract with the union and it’s understood that he is keen to extend that IRFU deal rather than drop onto a lower value Leinster contract next season.

“We’re still talking with Rob,” said Nucifora. “Our conversations with Rob have been for quite a while, and we’d be more than happy for Rob to stay.

“He’s been a great contributor but we also have to look to the future as well and where does that sit and unfortunately in this business, things have a value as well, and you’ve got to try and make those things aligned.

“We’d still be very hopeful that we can reach an agreement with Rob.”

Kearney’s manager, Dave McHugh, told the Evening Herald on Tuesday that the IRFU’s most recent offer to his client had been some distance short of the player’s expectations.

“The IRFU has made Rob an offer. But if I am honest, it is well below where it needs to be – well below,” said McHugh.

“It has been a little protracted. We are struggling to get it to a point where it makes sense for him. It is Rob’s goal to continue playing rugby while he is fit and healthy and well. He is a starter both for his country and for his province. We need it to make sense for him.

“We appreciate there is an end point to his rugby playing career. But it isn’t yet.”

But Nucifora dismissed McHugh’s comments and insisted that Kearney could yet remain in Ireland next season.

“I haven’t dealt with that fellow who was his agent, to be honest,” said Nucifora.

“I’ve never had a conversation with him so I don’t really know where he came from into it. I didn’t realise he was Rob’s agent.

“So the conversations I’ve had are pretty much on the same page and I’d suggest that we’re very very close and we’re sorting out a few things at the moment. So we’ll see where we get to but it’d be hopeful.”

Rob Kearney and Sean O'Brien celebrate after the game Sean O'Brien is definitely leaving Ireland and Leinster next season. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

It was confirmed during this year’s Six Nations that another highly-experienced Ireland international, flanker Sean O’Brien, will definitely leave the country when his central contract expires after the World Cup, with the 32-year-old having agreed to join London Irish on a three-year deal. 

The Carlow man has been with Leinster for his entire career so far but the offer from London Irish – more than €400,000 per season – is considerably more than he would have been paid had he remained in Ireland next season on a much-reduced contract.

“Sean’s done an enormous amount for Irish rugby over the years with what he’s contributed,” said Nucifora when asked about negotiations with the back row.

“You’ve got to always look at the human side of it and you have conversations with them about where they’re at, what they want to do, what’s their ambition, and then you’ve got to relate that back to the business as well.

“That’s just a reality and you make business decisions with and about people. And Sean had to make a decision about what was best for him, and we had some really good discussions about what it would look like if he stayed. He had a decision to make and the best decision for Sean was, in his eyes, to take the contract at London Irish.

“No one feels bad about that. Everything comes to an end at some point and you move on, and I think we look at the depth we’ve got in those positions there as well, and again we’re reasonably safeguarded.

“You may not have another Sean O’Brien but we’ve got a lot of other talent sitting there.”

Gavan Casey is joined by Ryan Bailey and Andy Dunne to look ahead to Saturday’s Pro14 final, look at whether Joey Carbery’s move has paid off and Jack Conan talks about how his body is holding up:

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