Reports in yesterday’sthat Montpellier were willing to offer a yearly pay package of €840,000 for CJ Stander’s services made that much all the more obvious and it begs the question as to why any foreign player would choose these shores over France or England.
That very point was put to Scott Fardy yesterday.
A 33-year-old forward with the versatility to play as a lock or in the back row, he is lightly raced after a delayed start to his professional career and someone who, at the same time, has 39 caps with Australia to his credit.
One of those was won in a World Cup final.
Whatever he is earning with Leinster, it must pale in comparison to the remuneration he could have been banking in the Top 14. Which takes us back to where we started: Why exactly is he here?
“I wanted to come overseas. I wanted to experience playing European rugby. Ideally, that would be with a club playing at the business end. Leinster have proven they can get to the business end every year and have the squad to do so.
“If you look at the talent in the squad, you want to play alongside those guys. I wanted to enjoy my rugby. Money is not everything to me, put it that way. I am happy where I am. You also want to keep learning.
“I’m learning stuff here, keep growing my game, getting better in my own game and, personally, in my life. If this is the twilight of my career I want to enjoy it and I want to win things. I don’t want to go somewhere and just play. I want to go to a place and win.
“That’s important to me.”
He has been worth every penny so far.
The birth of his son August put paid to hopes of a European debut against Montpellier in October but he has started all three Champions Cup games since and basically made himself indispensable to a side that looks capable of big things this season.
Some things do take getting used to.
Christmas is normally a time for putting “feet up in the sun, eating prawns somewhere, drinking beer,” but it’s likely to be cold and maybe wet and windy too in Limerick on the 26th when Leinster visit Thomond Park.
The rugby, too, is different.
Leinster went through 44 phases before scoring the game-clinching try against Exeter Chiefs two weekends ago — “we weren’t going far either,” Fardy joked — but he’s an advocate for Europe’s ‘World Cup’-type format and the skillsets of those he is playing with.
Yet, for all their talent, Leinster have leaned heavily on a rugged southern hemisphere presence in their pack for their three Heineken Cup successes. Rocky Elsom, Nathan Hines and Brad Thorn: Could Fardy be that last, missing piece of the latest jigsaw?
“I’m just a small piece of it,” he said. “It’s a whole squad effort, and I do what I do week-in, week-out. But there was plenty of good locks here already before I got here and hopefully I could help them develop as players.”