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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 19 March, 2019
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IRFU hedging their bets on potential World Cup win bonuses

‘The further you’re to travel in the tournament, the greater the proportion.’

NOT EVERYONE IS motivated by money, but it’s fair to say that a large proportion of any group will be driven by the prospect of financial gain.

Ireland’s World Cup squad is no different to any other group of people in the world, and as such the bonus system in place should Joe Schmidt’s squad thrive at the global tournament in October is a tool of the trade.

Ireland team huddle before the game Ireland and every other nation earn win bonuses. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The way rugby unions everywhere cover the potential cost of rewarding their players and coaches for success is the practice of ‘hedging bets’.

Essentially, the IRFU and almost every other union involved takes out insurance on the possible achievements of their team at the World Cup.

The IRFU used their ties to Paddy Power ahead of the last four World Cups to cover any potential financial blow due to incentive-based payouts, backing themselves to win the tournament.

“Everyone hedges, that’s par for the course,” said IRFU chief executive Philip Brown at yesterday’s annual council meeting in the Aviva Stadium.

It’s been reported that Australia’s players will earn over €100,000 each if they go all the way to claim the Webb Ellis trophy in October, while there have been suggestions that the figures for English and Welsh stars are closer to €140,000.

Browne was naturally unwilling to discuss the actual content of Ireland’s bonus package, but he did confirm that it operates in the same way as those of the majority of other nations.

The reality is that with all the major unions involved in the Rugby World Cup there’s a squad of 31 players and there’s an incentivised rate in place for all the players in the squad of 31, collectively. It’s the only way you could do it.

“As you know, there are no individuals in a team, it’s a team.

“The reality is that we have an arrangement in place with IRUPA and with the squad which is similar to the sort of arrangements in place in other unions. It’s incremental, performance-related. The further you’re to travel in the tournament, the greater the proportion.”

Martin O'Sullivan, Philip Browne and Tom Grace Newly-elected IRFU President Martin O'Sullivan, chief executive Philip Browne and honorary treasurer Tom Grace. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Naturally, the primary motivator for most will be the goal of being the best team in the world, but it would be helpful if the IRFU’s bonuses match up favourably to those of Wales, England and Australia.

The IRFU has covered itself for the potential cost of paying out bonuses if Joe Schmidt’s side reach the semi-finals or even go on to win the competition, but there will still be a heavy financial outlay on the tournament as a whole.

Oftentimes, World Cups are loss-making beasts for the unions involved due to the fact that home autumn internationals are not a feature of the season’s calendar, but Browne happily reports that the situation has been better managed this time around.

At the moment, it’s probably roughly break-even and that arises because we have a very good arrangement with the English Rugby Union, which was put in place over two cycles of the World Cup,” said Browne.

“So we’re fortunate in that regard. We’ve obviously got reasonable attendances here (at the Aviva Stadium); this weekend (against Scotland) I think it’s going to be 30,000 plus and in relation to the Welsh match, hopefully 40,000.

“All of that helps and we obviously get some funding from the Rugby World Cup as well. As compared to previous years, where we were effectively making a significant loss, it’s probably breaking even.”

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Murray Kinsella

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