IRFU chief executive Phillip Browne believes the governing body and the provinces are “singing from the same sheet” over the best way forward to implement the controversial Player Succession Strategy.
The IRFU’s proposals to restrict non-Irish eligible players to one per position across the Leinster, Munster and Ulster squads from 2013-14 attracted widespread criticism when announced just before Christmas.
Yet having since engaged with the provinces to discuss the strategy, most recently 10 days ago, Browne believes there is better understanding about what the IRFU wants to achieve, although there is still some ground to make up about how they want to do it.
Speaking yesterday, after the RDS was announced as host venue for the 2013 Amlin Challenge Cup final, on the eve of next season’s Heineken Cup final at the Aviva Stadium, Browne said: “Ultimately, we can’t have a successful national team unless we have successful provinces and the debate that’s been going on the past couple of months is how do you find that balance between success at provincial level and success at national level, and I think the answer is nobody has the correct answer at the moment. It’s a balance, it’s all about tweaking things and we’ve had some very good meetings with the provinces to see how can we tweak things for improvement all around. We had one meeting about 10 days ago with about 40 people involved in running professional rugby in this country and it was remarkable the extent how much everyone was singing off the same sheet. There’s more meetings to be had and I think everything went extremely positively.”
Browne suggested there was now an understanding that the proposals had a degree of latitude in the way they would implemented.
“There always was flexibility in the arrangement, the reality is the discretion has always lain with the contracting group so we’ve always had discretion to make decisions. The union committee doesn’t interfere in the decisions that are taken in relation to contracting of players and we would be very foolish to systematically take that flexibility out of the structures.
“However, having said that, we have to lay down certain principles and one of the principles has to be that the national team has to have the ability to select a team of eligible players. Fundamentally that’s where we’re at now. We have a particular issue with front row players at the moment, particularly tighthead props and the reality is we’re going to have to start encouraging our provinces, we’ve got to put the structures in place and the personnel to ensure we have a supply of front-row forwards going into the future.
“Today it’s tighthead prop, tomorrow it could be an out-half, in three years’ time it could be a centre. These are all the issues we have to deal with, we have to think about the here and now and what’s going to happen in four years. I can tell in 2019 that all the players who are going to play (in the World Cup) are already in our systems so we have to look at that.”
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