TONY BUCKLEY might have a bright rugby future following some fine displays on Ireland’s recent tour of Australia and New Zealand, but he is no closer to nailing down an alternative job once his playing days are over.
Buckley continues to be frustrated by the stance taken by the Irish National Training and Employment authority, FÁS, in declining to allow him complete his plumbing apprenticeship on a part-time basis, even though he has been offered facilities by a company in Munster.
Having gone through three years of his apprenticeship, Buckley had hoped to complete it in order to gain immediate employment when his playing days are over.
FÁS, despite representations from the Irish Rugby Union Players Association (IRUPA) and approaches from various politicians, are standing firm in their view that those in full-time employment are ineligible for such schemes, even though professional rugby players have only an average shelf life of six years.
IRUPA report that they have gone as far as they can in the Buckley case but are clearly frustrated at the FÁS stance, especially given that the organisation (IRUPA) is working hard to open doors for the players once they reach retirement.
Hamish Adams, the sole player services advisor with IRUPA, says more than 50% of Irish professionals wouldn’t have an alternative career to go to were they to suffer a career-ending injury. Ninety per cent of the players agree that having an interest to pursue outside of rugby was good for their game and personal development.
IRUPA is seeking to better the prospects of Ireland’s professional rugby players. They have just completed a survey to identify areas of concern – and Buckley’s case is a serious one – to better plan services and further improve the players’ welfare during and after their rugby careers.
The survey was conducted online by consulting with current and past players from both Ireland and abroad, and was facilitated by BDO Consulting in Limerick.
Meanwhile, Munster’s new signing Peter Borlase believes his summer switch can propel him onto the international scene with Ireland. The Canterbury prop has signed a two-year deal at Thomond Park and will link up with his team-mates following the ITM Cup in New Zealand.
But the New Zealander admits that if his move to Limerick proves to be successful, he has one eye on extending his stay and forcing his way into the Declan Kidney’s national set-up under the residency rule.
Borlase, 25, said: “I’m going to Ireland as a project player and that basically means you go through the Irish Rugby Football Union. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to play for Ireland, but there is that option.
“There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge first. But after two years there, there is an option that I could explore that route if I stay for another year. The IRFU have also got a say in the matter and, if you pass their criteria, that path can become available.”
Tight-head prop Borlase hopes to boost the strength in depth and challenge the current crop aiming to take over from Irish Test centurion John Hayes in the coming years.
Borlase was a real find of Canterbury’s 2009 championship-winning season but he has struggled to nail down a regular spot with Super 14 outfit the Crusaders.
“With the calibre of props we have in Ben and Owen Franks and Wyatt Crockett, realistically knocking on the door for a starting spot was going to be pretty tough. Being Canterbury born and bred, it wouldn’t really spin my wheels going to another province or Super 14 side. So the next best thing is going to the other side of the world and Munster, who have the same values and attributes as Canterbury.”
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