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Dublin: 8 °C Saturday 25 January, 2020

'The IRFU have done some sterling work to keep them in euros' - Schmidt

The Ireland head coach is relieved to see the back of the re-contracting period of the season.

AND SO IT is that the contracting season comes to a close for the IRFU.

The announcement of Jared Payne’s new two-year national contract on Thursday brought to an end the union’s negotiations with their Test players for another year.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt is delighted the re-contracting period is at an end. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The central contracts of Jamie Heaslip, Andrew Trimble, Devin Toner and Donnacha Ryan expire in the summer of 2017, but David Nucifora and the IRFU don’t have to worry about them for some time yet.

Instead, there will be a degree satisfaction on Lansdowne Road that only Ian Madigan and Marty Moore – neither of them first-choice players for Joe Schmidt – are flying the nest and heading abroad next season.

The union would obviously have loved to keep both Leinster men in the country beyond the end of this campaign, but tried to ensure that to no avail. They did, however, tie down the likes of Cian Healy, Sean O’Brien, Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls, Conor Murray and several others.

The lure of the wealthy English and French clubs has largely been fought off for another year, aside from Wasps’ capture of Moore and Bordeaux’s signing of Madigan.

For Ireland head coach Schmidt, the speculation may have gone on a little too long with some players – most notably Henshaw – but he is now glad that the re-contracting period is at a close.

There is always a lot of conjecture around it and I understand why, because people are interested in it,” said Schmidt at Mullingar RFC yesterday. “They want to know what is happening. A lot of times players are working week to week on their game.

“They are kind of planning ahead but it takes a bit of time. I think David Nucifora and the IRFU have done some sterling work – probably a bit of a pun on sterling really – to keep them in euros.

“I know that it’s not the biggest purse, but for the players it is often the biggest prize and they enjoy working here, they enjoy being in Ireland, being looked after in Ireland and having the opportunity to play for their province and the national team.

“That is a life saver for us, because I think the more they disperse the more difficult it is to keep tabs on them, the more difficult it is to manage their time and I’m not saying that we manage it any more strictly than in other places.

Joe Schmidt signs autographs for supporters Schmidt was a popular presence on his return to Mullingar. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“I think [England coach] Eddie Jones kept 23 players this week, we kept 15 for training [yesterday]. The rest of them were available to go back and play [for the provinces] so while we may have central contracting, there’s an attempt to share the resources as best we can.”

While the confirmation that Henshaw has been signed to a new three-year IRFU contract this week was highly welcome, there has been a divide of opinion over the 22-year-old’s decision to move from Connacht to Leinster.

The player himself underlined yesterday that the IRFU had nothing to do with his call to move east, and Schmidt backed that up after his Ireland team had trained against Nigel Carolan’s U20s in Mullingar.

That’s entirely Robbie’s decision and it was always going to be,” said Schmidt. “I think one of the things that is important is that people see out their contracts and I think Robbie’s given great service to Connacht and the one thing I’m utterly convinced is that Robbie will continue to give great service to Connacht through to the end of the season.

“They’re in great shape at the moment. I think there’s some great work happening down there and there’s a real collective down there, so they’re going to keep forging ahead and at the same time Robbie, I understand his temptation.

“There’s some powerful influences in that Leinster backline that he will team up with, and fair play to him. I think all the provinces would have been delighted to get Robbie and I think that with his selection of Leinster there’s probably a few lifestyle things as well for Robbie.”

“Being an Athlone boy it’s actually probably equidistant to where he is now and he does come from a really strong family. They’re just really good people and I’ve no doubt that’s part of the equation for him as well.”


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Murray Kinsella

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