Jonny, Jump on the Jet, we’re off to Cayman

The news that Jonny Sexton’s return to Leinster is being funded by private (i.e. non-Union) money was confirmed this week, and also clarifies how they managed to stave off Toulon’s interest in Jamie Heaslip last January. Leinster’s main sponsor, Bank of Ireland, made Heaslip a “brand ambassador” and gave him a chunk of cash, and Denis O’Brien has bankrolled part of Sexton’s wage packet. Newstalk, owned by O’Brien’s Communicorp, was, completely coincidentally, the platform for an exclusive Sexton interview on why he is coming home.

The professional model up to this point has been founded on increasing commercial, ticket and TV revenue (largely from the national team), with the proceeds invested back in the game – part of which is player contracts. The Union (largely) controlled this process in Ireland, but in France it was the clubs. Rugby has become hugely popular and the players are success stories and icons of the modern age; they also have a job which could end any given day if they are unlucky, and they naturally want to be compensated for that risk. And of course they want to be paid the market rate, which is high for multi-HEC winning, Six Nations champions and Lions tour winners.

So this is the new dawn – we’ve been through the emotional “let’s build it together” of the initial bringing the players home and contracting them centrally, and since then player salaries have increased sharply, to the point where, from the Union’s perspective, they have reached a ceiling, for the very elite players at least. Hence the need for top-ups from private sources. The bumper wages on offer from France (and likely England in the future) cannot be matched by the Union, so in order to keep the players here, big business (and Bank of Ireland) have been contracted to help full the gap. It’s a model that was common in Australian rugby in the early 90s, where players were given cushy well-paid numbers with national team sponsors with the blessing of the ARU, but it’s a big step for Ireland, where the Union has been among the most conservative when it came to embracing professionalism.

The financial reality is that it’s this or doubling ticket prices – and the ticketing fiasco that greeted the launch of Fortress Palindrome, among other factors, would have made the second approach seem less desirable.

We can’t be too precious about it.  In an ideal world, the IRFU would be entirely self-sufficient and this sort of private funding wouldn’t be required, but the goalposts have shifted in the last couple of years, probably for ever.  The Top14, where the clubs are entirely funded by private funds, is awash with cash and the players can earn enormous sums of money.  Irish players have long been coveted by the top French clubs, and while Jonny Sexton has been the only one to take up the offer, numerous other players have gone close.  Without being too presumptuous, it appears that the general line from the players in contract negotiations is ‘<Insert French club> have offered me €X to play for them next season.  Now I don’t expect you to pay me the same, but you have to offer me something not a million miles away from it.’  As the all-important €X becomes higher, so too will the amount the IRFU has to pay.  This is the age in which we now live, the age that drove us to the Rugby Champions Cup and the fallout that went with it.  We have grown used to stadia and the team jerseys being sponsored and Leinster received private funds to build their state-of-the-art training facilities.  The next step it seems is the players themselves.

If the likes of Denis O’Brien and Bank of Ireland are offering to ‘save the day’ by making up the difference between what the IRFU can pay and what the player is demanding, it stands to reason they would find it very difficult to say no.  Imagine the outcry if Sexton had stayed in France, only for the story to emerge that the IRFU flatly turned down the hard-earned readies that would have kept him here.

It’s also important not to get ahead of ourselves too much and remember this has happened only in the case of two elite players, and is only likely ever to be relevant for the select group on the highest salaries.  Envisioning a doomsday scenario where every player has his corporate backer, and Charleveille Cheddar fork out an extra €50,000 to keep David Kilcoyne at Munster, or worse still, that Rory McIlroy offers the €300k to keep Peter O’Mahony in Ireland but only if he moves to Ulster, is not especially relevant.  It’s simply never going to happen outside of a handful of special cases.  Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien and maybe Conor Murray are the only other players we can imagine being offered the sort of pay packet in France that would put them outside of the IRFU’s reach. Although, O’Brien’s history of injuries reportedly put off suitors last year.

But it’s not a completely costless strategy. Modern players are very aware of their brand and how to monetize their image, so they aren’t likely to get too upset by having to sit for two hours at a ridiculous corporate event where they get given advice on team selection by half-cut Hooray Henrys. So that’s fine. But, for a start, it’s inherently advantageous to Leinster – there are simply more people and businesses who are likely to have the kind of funds required (appears to be ~€300k annually) and the need for a “brand ambassador” in Dublin than there are in Belfast, Limerick, Cork and Galway.

What if the sponsors start demanding more of the players than was agreed? After all, he who pays the piper calls the tune etc. What if O’Brien rings up Sexton (or rings up Browne who rings up Sexton) to tell him he needs him to come out for some after-dinner-circuit Q&A two nights before a Six Nations match. O’Brien is an important sponsor for the player, the province and the Union – can they tell him to bugger off? Now, based on his experience with the FAI – where he stumped up for Il Trap’s pay packet – he is unlikely to do this – but it’s hardly an impossiblity for other sponsors in the future. Extreme care needs to be taken.

Also, is there some consideration of who the sponsors are? If this model was put in place in, say, 2006, Anglo Irish Bank could have sponsored Dorce. When they became the most evil bank in the history of evilness, this would not have looked like great business, either economically or reputationally. Ireland is far from a well-governed modern country, and the likelihood is that, like in the 80s and the 90s and the 00s, a big Irish company will go from flavour of the business circles to a scandal-ridden shell. To protect its investment, the IRFU needs to exercise due caution when accepting private funds.

Now, back to the rugby, and over to the stadium announcer (who, sponsorship or not, seems unable to pronounce non-Irish player names):  ‘At No.8 and captain it’s Bank of Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip. Now everyone, let’s stand up for YOUR Bank of Ireland Leinster team.’

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67 Comments

  1. Jesper

     /  September 18, 2014

    ‘To protect its investment, the IRFU needs to exercise due caution when accepting private funds.’

    Too late – they’ve already accepted DOB’s money.

  2. munstermicko

     /  September 18, 2014

    This is only the start.They are already doing this own in Munster. The players have been given the go ahead to use red tractor diesel in private cars. Although no Garda has the sliotars to ever pull Paulie or POM over to dip his tank so this is a bit of a useless perk.

    Always wondered by Dennis the Menace didn’t step in to top up Jonny before he left in the first place but I suppose the IRFU were still playing the long drawn out contract game at that point in time.

    • Amiga500

       /  September 18, 2014

      Were Toyota not giving them any old trade in they couldn’t sell for free?

      I’d heard they’d got a rake of mid-90s hiluxs in mint condition out of it.

      The bull found his a great job pulling the cattle trailer around – and they even got him a new set of re-treads on it for the fields.

      Petey Stringer got a custom hilux with wee steps built in and Radge got one with big bull bars, a winch, raised suspension and banja claws – so he could tackle anything.

      They even gave Dougie Howlett a couple of old scrapers to practice his panel beating on.

  3. Is there anything new about this other than the sums involved? Going back to shamateur times, local businesses were making it worthwhile for players to stick around particular clubs.

    It is more cringeworthy than a real issue, but player media appearances will just become product plugging sessions. Jamie Heaslip’s interview on Off the Ball last night was basically just an advertorial for Maximuscle, another product Jamie is brand ambassador for.

    I agree that there will more commercial opportunities based out of Dublin than the other cities. Also, some players will be seen as more morkeshable than others. You may be an international class prop, but sorry, that culchie accent and cauliflower ears means we can’t meet your salary demands.

    Still, if Rory McIlroy wants to pay to get POM to Ulster, Munster could approach Caroline Wozniacki for a counter-bid.

    • Again, sponsored content is nothing new but we’ll see more and more of it in rugby I’d imagine. I don’t really have an issue with it, they were upfront as to what it was, I enjoyed the interview, thought it had some good insights and haven’t as of yet bulk bought protein. Access is going to be the name of the game and once, as discussed above, there’s a clarity, legal and otherwise that the rugby comes first I think it’s part of the package that for a modern players, especially as you mentioned, a marketable one like Heaslip

      • “Access is going to be the name of the game” – unquestionably, and this appears to have been the case for some time and has to some extent dictated the armchair ride pretty much everyone associated with the Irish team gets from a lot of corners of the press. Increased commercial content will probably only dull people’s critical faculties further.

        • moreinhope

           /  September 18, 2014

          100% agreed. I find player and management interviews to be the least interesting part of the media’s sports coverage. The players rarely, if ever, have anything of interest to say. When player X appears in Wednesday’s paper or on the radio talking about an upcoming match you pretty much know what sound bites they’ll be wheeling out. I’d be happy enough for the media to refrain from worshipping at the feet of players and their assorted sponsors, grow some backbone and offer their readers/listeners some thoughtful, honest appraisals of players and teams. I appreciate what the players do on the pitch but I can live without Sexton’s or Heaslip’s empty media patter. – All of this is the reason I come to this blog – hat-tip to WOC and (assorted contributors) – where the opinions are invariably more interesting and insightful than anything written in an Irish Times puff piece.

        • I’m in two minds about that really. I actually don’t mind something like the Off The Ball piece last night where it’s clear from the get go what it is. Brands are more about experiences these days – a Dave Alred master class brought to you by Adidas, a Sean O’Brien training session with the Guinness app. When it’s clear what you’re getting that’s not a problem as far as I’m concerned and not that I lose much sleep at night over big corporations but if they’re putting down money they deserve something for it.

          In my experience with work & the like, brands have moved away from plastering their name over everything, which ties in with the discussion below and moved towards the idea they’re bringing you something unique e.g. Heineken & the Off the Ball Roadshow, the above examples etc. Of course they still want prominent branding, they’re not thick but you get more into stealth marketing the “brought to you by’ part. I don’t have a problem with it frankly & I think people are perfectly capable of reading it for what it is. You’ll get an insight into Jamie Heaslip’s diet & recovery, he’ll also talk about Maxi Muscle.

          The part where it becomes an issue is if it affects editorial content. But I think, as discussed above, you don’t tend to get fascinating insights from players squashed by corporate concerns. They weren’t saying much anyway for a variety of reasons.

          I think the armchair ride from the press is more about the rugby media in this country being so small. No journalist wants to boldly go and get frozen out. In my opinion is has very little to do with the sponsors, unless, oh I don’t know, the person who owns your newspaper and most of the other media outlets has invested a significant amount of money in one of the players. Hello, brave new world and another reason for rugby journalists to tow the line.

          • moreinhope

             /  September 18, 2014

            I don’t have a problem with sponsorship/branding – this is sport, it’s here to stay and though it’s sometimes intrusive, I don’t take issue with people getting paid or companies receiving exposure for their product.
            I do think it’s a problem for the media. They should dictate, to a greater degree, their own content. It’s not journalism to act as the pr mouthpiece for a player or brand. I think the work of some sports journalists would improve immeasurably from being frozen out of the press conference/player interview merry-go-round.

      • Mike

         /  September 18, 2014

        Sportsmen (footballers in particular) have so much spare time, its ridiculous. Jamie Roberts had enough spare time to become a doctor! There is no reason why access should become an issue.

        • SportingBench

           /  September 18, 2014

          Rugby players do a lot of sitting in dark rooms nursing their bruises. Don’t underestimate how hard it was for Dr Roberts to qualify. Concentration is not easy when you are beaten up

          • Agree, it’s an amazing achievement that Roberts qualified.

            Access is not about spare time. It’s about getting through the gatekeepers to get to the players and about what they feel comfortable saying. Time is the least of it.

  4. johnmcdermott

     /  September 18, 2014

    Would the IRFU be content to accept sponsorship for an individual player from a fast food chain named say “The Headless Chicken” ?.

    In reality, it s a question of a clothes peg on your nose and applaud politely, the IRFU
    needs the funds.
    Even if Rugby was as popular as the GAA, the income in Ireland would not be high enough to compete with French and English salaries.
    The GAA accepts sponsorship and Irish cricket has also just signed a deal.

    What the IRFU must try and avoid is a link with anyone like Allen Stanford.

    His deal with English Cricket left a nasty stink around the ECB headquarters.
    Most of us have had a good laugh at the introduction of the deal being replayed on TV
    with the bombastic ECB board chairman in attendance.

    Welcome to the world of the Qantas Wallabies scrum flying backwards.

    It might soon be a Connacht lad doing his own laundry and carrying his own kit following sponsorship by Ryanair. Well they fly to Knock.

  5. Yossarian

     /  September 18, 2014

    Is this new?I thought a collection of Munster business men bank rolled the arrival of Cristian Cullen when the final piece in the munster jigsaw appeared to be a strike runner in the back three. Plenty of rumours about Rory Mc helping out with a few south africans. Is it because of DOB not being a very palatable person in some quarters that this is now an issue?
    http://www.irishtimes.com/sport/rugby/is-there-no-end-to-denis-o-brien-s-intervention-in-irish-sport-1.1932645

    • I think that’s a really good point. Daddy Mc always talks about businesses associated with his AIL club sorting people out with jobs & other sweeteners, I think it’s something that’s been happening for a long time inflated to a bigger scale, partially due to the crazy amount of money washing around France.

      And definitely part of the issue is people not liking Denis O’Brien (which I do get), I don’t think we got as much reaction to Rory Mc investing in Ulster

      • * I should clarify that he meant when he was playing, I don’t know if it happens to the same degree now.

      • Did McIlroy invest in Ulster? Logan and Humphreys have always denied it

        • Amiga500

           /  September 18, 2014

          Well, he bought a few tickets for the premium section*…

          The prawn sandwich munching fancy fecker!!

          *he better have feckin bought them and not been given a freebie!

          • and wore ridiculously oversized sunglasses

          • Amiga500

             /  September 18, 2014

            Aye, but sure how often do you get to wear sunglasses at Ravenhill? Can’t really blame him for getting a bit excited when the chance did arise!!

            Good ‘ol baseball cap for me. Should really have been a flat cap but I digress…

        • Paddy

           /  September 19, 2014

          I doubt McIlroy splashed. Look at that Munster squad of 4/5 years ago and tell me the management didn’t have a few quid to spare. Not intended as a dig btw.
          They saved a few quid too by offloading bowe and Wilson.

      • Mike

         /  September 18, 2014

        I think the reason people don’t like him is because they perceive him as trying to buy popularity. I love my country and countrymen so i’ll help out when i can. The counter argument being that if that was true he would pay tax there and maybe live there…

    • Not familiar with the Christian Cullen story, but there has never been any substantiation whatsoever of the “Rory McIlroy is funding Ulster” rumours and indeed it was officially denied by Ulster Rugby. I very much doubt it was anything more than a speculative story.

      • I suppose I should clarify that the idea of Rory Mc investing in Ulster was greeted far more favourably. I heard he made a contribution to the redevelopment however they don’t let me peruse their accounts as of yet so I don’t know if it’s in any way true.

        • I think Rory Mc has bought seats in the corporate section of Raven… sorry, Kingspan Stadium and these are given to friends and family but he hasn’t done anything more more than a typical corporate sponsor buying seats.

    • contraflow

       /  September 18, 2014

      I have never understood Denis O’Brien’s lack of popularity. We gave him a phone licence making him a billionaire tax-exile and he gave us a football coach. So you see it has been a mutually beneficial relationship.

      It’s called trickle down economics, someone accumulates a billion euros and the masses benefit to a greater degree, e.g. a football coach, than if the billion had been divided equally amongst them, by say, reducing the tax burden by1 billion euros.

      Common sense people. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  6. Leinsterlion

     /  September 18, 2014

    I have always thought it odd that Irish rugby jerseys are not plastered in sponsors like some of the french ones, I have a La Rochelle and an Agen jersey from a few years back, plastered in sponsors. My maxim would be, if there is space on a jersey you can sell it, so long as it doesnt descend to the farce that is Yankball with games stopped/interrupted for advertisements, the cash will always outweigh the marketing guff you have to put up with.

    The only worry I would have, is, if sponsors try to call the shots on who gets picked, if, say player X is involved in some “scandal” and Brand Y doesn’t want the media attention and demands for moral reason player X is dropped from a match day squad, the integrity of the game will have been pissed up against the wall for a few euros. With all this brand ambassador nonsense we run the risk of falling into that trap of having rugby players held up as anything more then lads playing rugby, all for the sake of some phone companies trying to flog lumps of plastic

    • You just raised an interesting point. Look at the NFL – the Vikings had picked Peterson after he was accused of beating his son with a stripped branch, and justified it at a press conference with a team sponsor (Radisson) plastered in the background. Radisson then pulled their sponsorship, and, presto, Peterson was suspended!

      This is an example of private money valuing their brand over the player (no player is bigger than the brand?). Let’s say Jonny Sex Bomb got a George Smith/Florian Fritz and was clearly concussed – could O’Brien sue if he was re-introduced when clearly concussed? And if he did, would any right-minded person not consider it the right thing to do?

      • The irony being that the Americans don’t plaster their sports jerseys with sponsor logos.

        • Leinsterlion

           /  September 18, 2014

          No, not jerseys, just everything else. Now a word from our sponsors….

      • Leinsterlion

         /  September 18, 2014

        Exactly, say, Murray and Zebos, er, “sword-fighting” became public and Brand X gets the hump, are Munster to drop their star players at their behest or (in an admittedly wild and far fetched scenario), a Leinster player says something not soul crushingly boring in an interview and Bank of Ireland get the hump and an apology isn’t enough and they want him suspended, what will happen? The contracts the IRFU sign had better be watertight otherwise who knows what the future could bring.
        As Petersons case illustrates, sports should be about sports, morality can fuck off, the state can deal with anything illegal, everything else is irrelevant come *whenever it is TV companies dictate the game is to be played*, and a player not playing because a sponsor is offended is the death knell to a sport imo.

        • I really don’t think the IRFU will get involved in the contract between the player and the sponsor. The sponsor contract will be purely to do with the player’s personal remuneration and nothing to do with selection. The IRFU could act as a match-maker or set-up a “lovely players” style beauty pageant but when it comes to signing the deal, they will want to stay well clear.

          That means if a player does something the sponsor isn’t happy about, or the sponsor’s product turns out to turn be manufactured by child labour in Vietnam, the IRFU can say it is nothing to do with them and it is up to the player who he signs deals with.

        • I don’t know about that, I’m not sure you can just say sport is about sport.

          The two high profile recent NFL cases are certainly morally suspect, with violence done to a woman & child and there’s also a legal element.

          There’s no point saying sports stars just have a job like everyone else. They don’t, there’s an element of celebrity and usually a lot of cash. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dropping Rice & Peterson for off the field conduct of this magnitude, the real problem was that it wasn’t done before public or sponsorship outcry.

          Where do you draw the line with sport is just sport? Were players who supported the boycott during apartheid wrong to do so? Sports still a part of life and, particularly when you’ve got a big public profile, you don’t get to do whatever you want off the pitch and still get to tog out. The sad truth is this seems to be the reality but that doesn’t make it right.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  September 18, 2014

            If Leinster ended up dropping a player because a hotel chain(as in Adrian Petersons case) or some oke on twitter takes exception to off field stuff, thats the day I bin my jersey/tickets and stick to the AIL. So long as a player is legally in the clear and can help Leinster win, them being utterly distasteful or repellent individuals is for the management and their teammates to deal with. Look at the NRL, the game is being ruined by sponsors and the admin blurring the lines between off field conduct and play on the field, Todd Carney sacked because of prudishness and nothing more.*

            As for Apartheid and the boycott, in light of their not being a sporting boycott against Israel, it really makes a mockery of it all, also, its effect was negligible, if the cold war was still on, apartheid SA would still exist. Sports and politics should not mix, players as individuals should be free to do and express their opinions, but the game should rise above it. Most of all, sponsors should not dictate who should be allowed on the field.

            *Not that I support/condone Adrian Peterson or Todd Carneys actions, in Petersons case, its a legal issue, nothing to do with sports, Todd Carney was just stupid.

          • steve

             /  September 18, 2014

            Really though the ‘sponsor pulling sponsorship for a flimsy reason and forcing the clubs hand’ isn’t quite as big a deal. Or at least shouldn’t be, if it’s a serious issue like battering your wife, no other sponsor is going to jump in to fill the gap. If Bank of Ireland want to pull out because Sean O’Brien has a secret AIB account with his harvest cash then likely there’ll be a queue of other options, your just need to have a contingency plan for anything your financially reliant on.

          • I completely agree that it shouldn’t be at the behest of sponsors people are dropped. However I do think players can & in many cases should be dropped for questionable off field behaviour e.g. Peterson, or Danny Care closer to home, regardless of how important they are. Otherwise it does look as if the club condones that behaviour and I don’t think that’s ok. However I respect other people don’t feel that way. For me, the bottom line is that star athlete is not the same as other professions so it doesn’t get treated the same way.

            I think it’s unfairly revisionist to nullify the South African boycott in reference to the Israeli one. However much I would like the reaction to Gaza to move beyond The Exchequer.

            In short I agree sponsors shouldn’t dictate who gets on the field but it’s impossible for sport to rise above politics. Doing nothing is often condoning or legitimising e.g. FIFA in Qatar etc. I don’t think you can rise above slave labour & I don’t think you should rise above domestic violence, drunk driving etc

        • SportingBench

           /  September 18, 2014

          We’re confusing a number of things here. Radassion sponsored the Vikings not the player and therefore the situation is no different there than with BoI and Leinster. On the privately supported players, the best examples come from Oz. Where the club is involved as they often are in the AFL then the money goes directly to the club in return for certain access with the cancellation clauses clearly defined. Pressure from sponsors isn’t a major issue as we are talking about top stars and clear contracts. Good for DOB if he is able to cancel his agreement with Sexton and Leinster if Sexton beats his wife. I would hope Leinster would also cancel theirs in the same circumstances. Poor on anyone player or Province signing a contract giving sponsors influence on selection or making the contract so flimsy that sponsors can walk away on a whim. That would just be bad business from Leinster and the player

    • You obviously haven’t seen the new Connacht jersey. It looks like Microsoft word vomited over a jockey’s silks…

      • I really hate branding on the back of the shorts a la the Ospreys. It always looks like they sat in wet paint

        • LifeStyleSports (shirt and shorts), Mazda (shirt and shorts), topoil (shirt), Murray Timber Group (shirt), Connacht Hotel (shirt), Kinetica (shorts), manufacturers and Connacht badges (shirt and shorts), plus sundry eagle motifs. And the back of the thing is in “Munster navy”. Must lie down and repeat: “It’s all to pay for Mils” until I calm down.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  September 18, 2014

        Its not so much the quantity rather the bad design, as you say, it like mircosoft word vomited all over it, the black away jersey from last year was tasty enough.

  7. Facezook

     /  September 18, 2014

    Does anyone know the ins and outs of the contract and agreement with DOB for Seton or BOI for Heaslip. Is there a contractual link with the IRFU? or is it a case of DOB ‘unofficially’ stating that he will sponsor Sextons image rights for €X on the provision that he returns to Leinster? If anyone has ever bothered to flick through the player profles on the Connacht Rugby website about 90% of the players have a ‘sponsored by’ beneath their name. As plenty of people have said there is nothing new about player sponsorship and local business incentives (sure Axel hasn’t paid for a dominoes meal deal in Mt Kennett Place since that fateful hat-trick) but the difference her seems to be the inference of a contractual relationship with the IRFU and/or the province…. Is that the case? Possibly an obvious answer in the papers on that one but I haven’t been keeping up to date with it.

  8. toro toro

     /  September 18, 2014

    It is very nice of Monegasque businessman Denis O’Brien to fund sport in a foreign country like this.

    It would be nicer still if the government could afford to keep schools and hospitals open, but you take the scraps you’re given, I guess.

  9. Jesper

     /  September 18, 2014

    DOB is like the rich fat kid in school with no mates so he splashes the cash in the hope that will be enough to make him Mr. Popular.

    As if Leinster don’t have enough advantages in terms of playing population, facilities, funding, tanning salons, and hipster hangouts, enter The Billionaire.

    • Mary Hinge

       /  September 18, 2014

      Couldn’t agree more Jesper. Can’t understand why I don’t feel more love towards Mr O’Brien the “philanthropist”.

  10. What are everyone’s views on, for example, Conor Murray/Heaslip/Cian Healy moving to Toulon and Japan for two years after RWC 2015 and then coming back 2 years before RWC 2019? I can see this happening to a lot of our star players in the future, especially seeing as the English and French clubs couldn’t give a shite about national interests, and would field 15 foreigners if it was up to them.

    Personally I think this could be a good thing. If all 3 moved then IRFU would save ~ €3.6m (600,000 x 3contracts x 2 years) while still having (admittedly drastically reduced) access to the players for International duty. In the meantime it allows Jack Mc Grath, Dominic Ryan* and Kieran Marmion** start every Heineken Cup match and International where CM/JH/CH are unavailable, giving us a stronger pool of players when the money grabbers (not intended as an insult) return . As we know, injuries or retirements are the only way younger players get a chance in this country.

    I’m curious what people think about such a development from the IRFU’s point of view? (NOT the players point of view!)

    * SOB would replace Heaslip, allowing a space for Dominic Ryan(for instance)on the flank…
    **I’d imagine if Murray left then Munster would snap up Marmion immediately

    • Mary Hinge

       /  September 18, 2014

      Why would Marmion want to take a backward career step and leave Connacht for Munster?

    • We had this a lot with Sexton’s move.

      The IRFU’s long-held view is that Irish rugby is best served by having our best players play in Ireland and we go along with that.

      Aside from the obvoius arguments like the fact that Leinster would obviously be stronger with Cian Healy than without, I think the argument above is one of ‘quantity over quality’. It’s well and good saying ‘by shipping Healy off to France we develop more looseheads’ but really the most impotant loosehead we have by about a million miles is Cian Healy, because he is one of the best players in the world. Players of that class have to be really cherished because they are rare. Having three Jack McGraths is not as imortant as having one Cian Healy. Everything should be done to ensure that primarily Ireland, and secondarily Leinster, get to experience the best of Cian Healy, and that generally means keeping him here in Ireland where his playing time is carefully managed and the coaches have easy access to the player.

      • Yeah it only occured to me there that my entire ‘what if’ scenario is basically the Sexton story!
        However, a year on and I would actually say the IRFU made the right decision with Sexton. They called Sexton’s bluff and he’s been whinging about moving ever since, a great case study for the IRFU to mention to any players who feel like taking French €s. No one can tell me that Leinster would have beaten Toulon had Johnny been playing, and although Sexton was quite poor in the 6 nations (bar tries scored statistics) I don;t think you can blame that on him playing in France. What really pisses me off is the mismanagement of Madigan during the season gone by. I think it’s unforgivable that Schmidt didn’t lay down a directive that Mads should have started every big match during the year. (Kidney made sure Kearney played every game at fullback in 2012 despite Nacewa being twice the player). I really don’t see how it benefits Leinster or Ireland in the long run picking a New Zealand journeyman for the crunch matches..and I wouldn’t think it does much for Madigan’s confidence either. Gopperth is a decent player but Madigan has the potential to be a player in the class of Aaron Cruden and Contepomi and I feel the past year was a golden opportunity for his development that both Leinster and Ireland completely fluffed, constantly undermining him by needlessly dropping him.

        • I’m not sure the two situations are comparable – Kearney was a Lions tourist and a key member of Deccie’s first XV, and definitely on the same level as Nacewa. Madigan is probably third choice starting 10, at best 2.5th, and was unmapped for 12. He played 12 minutes in his only selection in the 23 – he simply was not the type of player you enforce an edict on.

          Mads certainly has potential, no doubt, but lets not get too over-excited.

          • So we’re agreed we’re better keeping Murray and Healy at home after 2015. Fair enough. What about the likes of Heaslip, Donncha Ryan, Rob Kearnashian, Mike Ross, Eoin Reddan, and Tommy Bowe (I’m sure there are others) whose age and/or injury profile would suggest certainly won’t be around in 2019? Shouldn’t we encourage them to go abroad in 12/18 months so they’re not blocking the development of the next generation?

          • SportingBench

             /  September 18, 2014

            And maybe Schmidt simply doesn’t rate Madigan as highly as some others?

          • While Rob is undoubtedly an International class fullback Nacewa was absolutely world class, far superior in every aspect bar fielding high balls. Even taking this into account, 15 is Rob’s best position so I didn’t disagree with Nacewa being shifted to the wing so he could play there..my point is Kidney made a structure that allowed Rob realise his full potential, while Madigan has been on musical chairs between 10, 12, 15, bench and dropped from 23 man squads altogether (for club and country) the past 2 or 3 years. It’s grand to do that to a shite utility player like Johne Murphy but players like Madigan in Irish rugby come around once in a blue moon and need to be treated as special cases. It may turn out that my confidence is misplaced and that Madigan just doesn’t have what it takes but lets at least give him an extended run in blue so has the chance to be the player we want him to become

            Our debate re edicts is somewhat a chicken and egg situation..You’re saying he doesn’t deserve an edict coz he’s 2.5th choice..I’m saying he’s 2.5th choice because he hasn’t gotten an edict!!

        • Madigan has the potential to be a player in the class of Aaron Cruden? Are you suffering from a fever of some sort?

          Aaron Cruden is only two months older than Ian Madigan. He’s arguably the best outhalf in the world with an utterly extraordinary game in almost every respect. Ian Madigan, for all his exceptional gifts, has nothing like his ability or talent. Cruden is on a completely different planet in terms of vision, decision-making, and kicking from hand. He’s probably better even in the areas where Madigan excels: running and passing. Leinster fans do him no favours with these absurd claims, making Madigan out to be this meteoric talent who’s been unjustly overlooked by Kidney and then O’Connor, and presumably Schmidt when he had Jackson ahead of him except as cover for the outside backs.

          I know I’ve fallen into the trap of talking about Madigan on the internet, but conversations about him would be easier to avoid if everyone just cooled the jets and stopped being completely, ridiculously hyperbolic about him.

          • I think the key words I used were ‘potential to be’. Not for a minute suggesting he’s the level of Cruden but I do believe he has the potential to be world class (like Cruden) and I chose Cruden because he is the outhalf I see having the most comparable skillset to . Look back to 2013 and Madigan was the form 10 in Europe. Even though he hasn’t hit those heights since I would still have him over such International 10’s as Farrell, Burns, Priestland, anyone Italian or Scottish, Morne Steyn, Wilkinson in his last few seasons and possibly Sanchez and Bernard Foley.

            To use an analogy, would Cruden be half the player if he was a sub for Dan Carter for 4 years, then played a blinder once Carter was injured, and once Carter left was chopped and changed week out with new signing Stephen Mc Donald, whilst Colin Slade was picked ahead of him for New Zealand as a result?? In 2012 NZRU made sure he moved to Waikato where he was given the keys and got to improve his confidence and game every week. He has flourished ever since. You might say that after Cruden’s underage heroics he was destined to become world class regardless but I disagree, there’s plenty of NZ prodigys that never make the big time (Blyendaal). The structures were put in place to create an environment geared towards him excelling and that’s what happened.

            I’m banging the same drum over and over but it just irritates me when the solution is so simple yet nothing is being done. Here’s hoping for a Madigan MOTM and Connacht victory tonight!!

    • Facezook

       /  September 19, 2014

      Think you make some interesting points Kevin. I think the IRFU’s logic while obviously in the immediate future’s interest (ie: the best indigenous players being immediately availabel for national team selection and player management) but also in the longer term future (ie: success breads success and having some of the best players in the world playing and training within the provincial provinces is obviously better for the development of younger talent). Whenever there has been a marquee oversea’s signing: Doug Howlett, Mils Muliana, Ruan Pienaar, Rocky Elsom, etc. the main advantage sighted was the opportunity for young Irish talent to learn from them…..why not let the young talent learn from our home grown stars also? To the Madigan point, while I agree with you that he is immensely talented and it is regrettable that he didn’t get more of an opportunity last season I think Schmidt and MOC were right to play it as they see it. If MOC thinks Leinster are better served and more likely to win games with Gopperth on the pitch then he has to play him. If for arguments sake Madigan had started all games and Leinster didn’t qualify from their group would that not have been to the detriment of the development of other young Leinster talent (ie: Ruddock, D Kearney, McGrath, Morre, etc. and Madigan himself would not have gotten the opportunity to experience a HC QF in the toughest part of France) and the confidence of the wider squad? Contrary to some points below (and to be clear I am not a Leinster supporter) IO agree with your assessment of Madigans potential (I am confident that you could chuck him in the slot for the ABs and he would look as good as Cruden, with an armchair ride of having the 14 best players in the world around you- a luxury no player outside of NZ gets to experience) but the fact is he has to compete for his place like everyone else and Gopperth is a good player…the competition might stand to him as much as anything else………

      • Thanks Facezook. I (think I) get what you’re saying! In relation to your ”for arguments sake Madigan had started all games and Leinster didn’t qualify from their group would that not have been to the detriment of the development of other young Leinster talent” comment, I’m not sure one extra match will have contributed that much to said players development. Only time will tell I suppose. I don’t suggest that The Heineken Cup should be used as a development exercise for up and coming Irish players, MOC isn’t running a charity, but I think a key point is that there has been very little difference in performance levels between Gopperth and Madigan. (Gopperth was brilliant VS Ospreys away and Madigan was brilliant VS Northampton away…and I’d imagine their kicking %s are very similar?). Basically…if Madigan and Gopperth are of similar quality, and Madigan has a far higher ceiling, and can actually contribute far more for Ireland and Leinster in the long run, then does it not make sense to back the Irish guy? It’s not as if you’re weakening the team by playing him. But I do concede that in the end it’s up to him whether he makes the leap or not. Please god don’t let him become a James Hook/Shane Geraghty!

  11. Ireland's Answer (allthingsrugby1)

     /  September 19, 2014

    I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again IRFU need to pick and choose their battles. Some players going abroad isn’t a disaster.

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