Jamie Heaslip 'still in negotiations' with Toulon and Leinster
REPORTS in France that Jamie Heaslip has turned down an opportunity to join Toulon and re-commit to Leinster and Ireland appear premature.
Independent.ie understands that the Ireland vice captain remains in negotiations on his future and no decision is expected until later this week.
The reports that Heaslip will turn down Leinster's quarter-final opponents and pen a two-year deal are given added credence by the fact that they come from rugby newspaper Midi Olympique which broke news of Jonathan Sexton’s move to Racing Metro last season, while the player’s preference is believed to be a new deal with Ireland and Leinster.
However, having missed out on Sean O’Brien last week, the European champions are determined to land the 30-year-old No 8 and upped their offer to the Naas native last Thursday leaving a significant gap between the two deals he is considering from the IRFU and Toulon.
Heaslip travelled to Toulon over the festive period to meet with club officials. However, O’ Brien and Donnacha Ryan are both known to have visited French clubs and turned them down.
The Heaslip contract saga will certainly be an interesting subplot when Leinster travel to Toulon in April for their Heineken Cup quarter-final clash.
Leinster chief Mick Dawson said last week that he expected news on Heaslip's future in the coming days and the IRFU will be hoping to secure his signature before the Six Nations begins.
The IRFU are determined to hold on to their big names and this morning added Paul O’Connell to the list of stars who have committed their futures to staying in Ireland ahead of next year’s World Cup.
Heaslip and Keith Earls are the two frontline internationals remaining to sign, while Dave Kearney and Rhys Ruddock are two other squad members also out of contract at the end of the season.
The French paper says Leigh Halfpenny will be paid €480k when he joins Jonny Wilkinson and co in the south of France, while they are also confident of signing Wallaby James O’Connor.