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Dublin: 7°C Tuesday 26 January 2021
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French approaches for top Irish players a genuine concern admits Kiss

Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien have been linked to Top 14 moves before their seasons have even begun.

Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien carry their bags into Dublin Airport back in March.
Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien carry their bags into Dublin Airport back in March.
Image: INPHO/Donall Farmer

IRISH RUGBY SUPPORTERS were informed, back in January, that Jonny Sexton was on his way to Racing Métro but the French club flatly denied all links.

All Top 14 sides operate under an agreement where they do not discuss possible transfers until the window officially opens in the summer. By the time Sexton’s move was made official by the Parisian club, it had been public knowledge for five months.

This season, it seems, French teams are outdoing themselves. L’Equipe have reported that Ruan Pienaar is nailed-on to join Toulon in the summer while Racing Métro and Clermont Auvergne have marked the respective dance cards of Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip respectively.

Ireland backs coach Les Kiss told TheScore.ie that the current wrangles around the future of European Cup rugby have heightened issues regarding Top 14 approaches. He said, “I think there’s obviously always going to be some concern around that. With the environment they way it is, it may be perceived that it’s going to be more of a concern.”

Kiss added, “What we’ve got to do, as coaches, particularly myself and John [Plumtree], is to ensure we’re providing them with something that makes them want to stay. That’s in terms of the way we coach and they way in which we engage with the players.”

The Australian feels himself and Plumtree, the forwards coach, need to be visible on the rugby scene and get the input of players within, and out, of the squad. Kiss reasoned:

It’s about knowing that if you are here in Ireland, you probably have a better chance of putting the green jersey on.”

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imageLes Kiss will preach the importance of Irish players remaining with their provinces in his role as backs coach. INPHO/Dan Sheridan

When quizzed about contract negotiations on Monday, Heaslip commented, “When it comes to the business side of things, that is why I have certain people around me to deal with it. That lets me play rugby, so I don’t have to stress about it at all.”

Ulster coach Mark Anscombe’s response, when asked about the Pienaar situation last Saturday, demonstrates the 365 days a year nature of keeping a talented squad together. He told TheScore.ie: “Firstly, the way they’ll do that is in private. Once things are to be known, that will come out to the public.”

Rugby fans can take this as a given — by the time ‘things are to be known’, the public will already know about them. Plus ça change… Jonny and Ronan will tell you the rest.

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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