€1.2m to keep big guns at home
The IRFU nabbed a Triple Crown before a ball has even been kicked in the Six Nations after confirming new deals with Irish rugby's holy trinity of Brian O'Driscoll, Jamie Heaslip and Jonathan Sexton.
The new deals came at a high price, though, with the trio banking a combined annual salary of over €1.2m as the IRFU repelled the large amounts of money offered by Top 14 clubs.
O'Driscoll's one-year extension is believed to be only marginally higher than his current contract, reputed to be worth a basic €400,000, a figure that may have been matched by Heaslip's three-year deal.
Sexton's two-year deal is purportedly worth some €300,000 per annum, at least €200,000 less than a reported contract offered by an unnamed Top 14 French club.
"We haven't busted our budget," declared IRFU chief executive Philip Browne. "We know that the market is buoyant and players have to explore their options. They have done that but we have managed to get their signatures."
Bonuses, performance clauses and sponsorship opportunities will ensure all three players can vastly inflate their basic salaries.
Meanwhile, negotiations between the IRFU and Rob Kearney are no nearer conclusion despite being ongoing since October.