IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora has insisted that he did not block a move to Munster by Australian captain Stephen Moore and that he is not “against” the signing of foreign players in general by the provinces.
The Australian, speaking to reporters at the Aviva Stadium last night, also explained that he is open to the prospect of the provinces providing their own finances to fund the arrival of high-class overseas stars, which could free up union funds to retain the top Irish internationals.
“Look, Munster came to us with Stephen and said ‘this is what we’d like to put forward’. There’s a whole range of things that we think about that go into these decisions,” he said of Moore’s rumoured move but one which Munster have never commented on.
“So, having a player that’s still eligible to play international rugby that’s going to cost a province a lot of money: Is that the best use of the funds available at that point in time, where he’s going to be missing for a large portion of the season? Probably not. The fact that people have said that we blocked it: It wasn’t blocked. I think you’ll find that there probably was an offer made to Stephen Moore. It just wasn’t accepted.”
Nucifora had begun the gathering by speaking about the recently conducted World Cup review and noted the fact that the 2011 tournament debrief spoke of the importance of maximising the exposure of up and coming Irish players. Translation: Less foreigners. Some of the changes arising from it all “won’t be palatable to everybody” he said.
The use of personnel, both Irish and foreign, by the provinces will therefore be approached more systematically. There was talk of checks and balances and the need to avoid “ad hoc decisions”.
With Munster and Leinster suffering in Europe, there is a sense that both require an injection of class and nous from abroad. Nucirofa, who said “the buck stops with me” on all signings and contracts, clearly wants less foreigners but of a higher standard.
Quality, not quantity. The situation is that the four provinces may contract four foreigners plus one ‘project player’ who would qualify for Ireland after a three-year residency term. “I’m certainly not against foreign players. There definitely is a place for the foreign players in our system because history shows there are a lot of foreign players who have added a heck of a lot of value to Irish rugby over the years.
“So what we need to do is to make sure we have a system that allows foreign players who can contribute in the areas we require them to contribute in both on and off the field, positionally where they can best fit, so there is definitely a place for the foreign player.” One of the last questions asked of Nucifora was why the union allowed Paul O’Connell to leave for Toulon.
“We saved a lot of money, didn’t we,” he said light-heartedly, “because he’s injured and he won’t play for the rest of the year ... Look, you make every decision individually and Paul’s a player that has given huge service to Irish rugby and Munster rugby.
“It was a decision that Paul wanted to go (to Toulon) and experience something different in his career before he retired. I think that the due amount of respect was paid to Paul by both Munster and ourselves.”
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