Tomás O’Leary: IRFU must ‘pull out all the stops’ to ensure Keith Earls stays at Munster

Tomás O’Leary has urged the IRFU to move mountains and thwart any attempt by Saracens to woo Keith Earls to the Aviva Premiership next season.

Nevertheless, O’Leary believes Earls would prosper in the English club environment, and feels a move would have no detrimental affect on his international career.

Saracens are in the market for players, despite their poor financial situation, as they are in debt to the tune of £45.1m (€59.5m), following a loss of £3.98m (€5.2m) last season. 

But chairman Nigel Wray set out the club’s intent when he said: “Having a smaller squad and finishing 11th is an obvious way to cut the debt, but that would send out a terrible message to quality players that we weren’t ambitious and would hardly attract sponsors.”

O’Leary admits Earls is in that quality category Wray wants in the club, and believes his Munster colleague would continue to be in favour with Irish coach Joe Schmidt even when playing across the water.

“It’s different for every case. Johnny Sexton didn’t have any issue getting selected when he was out in Paris.

“So if you are good enough, if you are playing well enough they will pick you. 

“Obviously I wouldn’t be privy to Joe Schmidt’s thinking, or what the IRFU are thinking with regards to their policy for the selection of overseas players, but I think you will find especially if one or two lads go, they will end up having to select their best players.

“We don’t have a big enough playing population to be picky, especially if some of our best players end up starting to go abroad. It will be interesting to see, see what happens with Marty Moore. 

“I think he will still be picked.

“Keith is independent enough to make up his own mind, and I’m sure he will. But, hopefully the IRFU can pull out all the stops and keep him here.

“From a Munster point of view we want him, he’s our best back, he has developed into a leader in Munster.

“He is a local boy so everyone in Munster wants him to stay.”

However Tommy O’Donnell is adamant there is sufficient talent emerging through the ranks for Irish rugby to survive and even thrive despite the loss of some high-profile players like Moore and Ian Madigan to clubs in England and France.

It is too early yet to talk of a player exodus but the identity of the players involved is worrying in itself. 

O’Donnell has heard alarm bells ring before, though it was injury rather than emigration which caused the furore then. 

“If players decided they were to leave, it happens,” said the Munster and Ireland flanker.

“When David Wallace got injured, everyone was asking where players were going to come from. 

“At that stage, people were probably saying I wasn’t ever going to be of international standard or wasn’t good enough. 

“The players in the Irish ranks are there and sometimes they just need the chance, they just need the game time.

“Josh van der Flier is a great example this year of what young players can do with game time and how they can thrive. 

“If a key player moves on, the talent is there in the Irish pool that it will be filled.”


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