Leinster forwards coach Jono Gibbes believes it would be a massive mistake for Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien to move to France, warning they would not be treated as well outside the IRFU’s player welfare programme.
Heaslip spent two days in France meeting clubs earlier last week following a reduced national contract offer from the IRFU, while O’Brien has been courted by several sides interested in signing the Lions flanker.
“Yeah I think Seanie and Jamie should definitely stay here,” said the New Zealander at yesterday’s Leinster press conference.
“The environment they have got here is good for them. The system they have got with central contracting and the player programme is good for them. I think the national team benefit from having those guys there to call on. I think being a rugby player in Ireland is a good environment for them. Look it is never as black and white as it seems, the factors that have to be counted in, lifestyle and money and experiences I guess. For me I can kind of see the benefits of staying here.
“They are managed. They have a good pre-season break. They have a certain amount of games they play. The national coach communicates well. There is space for them to fit in games if they need to, it is a good environment, a good system.”
While he would like the situation to be clarified fast by the IRFU, he accepted there were complications.
“Surely there is some guys whom they earmark ‘bang! get this done as early as possible’. I guess when you are talking about their futures and monies it is always complicated with all those factors involved. I think from our point of view we would like to know as soon as possible.”
Scrum-half Eoin Reddan backed up Gibbes calls to keep the duo in Ireland and added that he does not think Heaslip wants to go.
“Of course, Jamie is a great friend of ours and it was the same when Johnny left,” he said. “Above all that is probably the thing you miss the most. That is probably the reality and because of that you do want him around. I also hope for his sake, if he can sort out the financial side of the deal, he’s going to be in the best place for him and I think everyone agrees with that. I hope for his sake he gets the dream goal which is to stay in Leinster and sort out his financial affairs.
“Loyalty definitely comes into it, but it’s funny because the contract talks are with the union and not with Leinster. It would be very tough if he does want to go, I don’t think he does, but hopefully it gets sorted out for him.”
However, he did acknowledge that if one or both moved on, the province would find a way to work without them. “The reality is, if you look at past examples with Johnny going, externally how big a deal it was for Irish rugby. If you’re an organisation that is adaptable and really, really wants to win – I mean off the pitch and on the pitch – then you have to find a way to move on.
“Is it hard to move on with someone like Johnny going? Yeah. And would it be hard if Seanie or Jamie moved on? Do I think with the kind of people who in this organisation would we find a way? I think we would have to. I don’t know how long it would take.
“The biggest thing is they’re good friends and you would miss that about them, being around the place. They are also rugby players and it would set us back. Definitely. You hope they stay. You hope we can build and move in the direction we are going. But, if it doesn’t happen, you’ve got to adjust and adapt to the situation.”
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