Have Your Say: Who Should Be IRFU's Next Top Priority?
Sean O' Brien might have been saved from a move to France, but with several player's contracts up, who should the IRFU concentrate on keeping?
IRFU may have won the battle for "the Tullow Tank" -- but the French threat will not go away.
The IRFU has been accused of leaving their negotiations with O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip recklessly late, given that virtually every other world-class player, either north or south of the equator, has been contractually tied down until after next year's World Cup.
Indeed, chances are that Toulon's failure to land O'Brien will now increase their interest in Heaslip, because there are simply no other players of that calibre currently on the market.
Undoubtedly, the optics of losing both Leinster back-rows to France less than a year after Jonathan Sexton's departure would have been ruinous for the Union.
Indeed, that scale of loss would also have represented a crushing blow for Matt O'Connor's bid to build on the Joe Schmidt legacy, having seen Isa Nacewa return home to New Zealand and knowing that another dressing-room leader, Leo Cullen, will soon decamp to the club's coaching staff.
Meanwhile, Dave Kearney has admitted that his future at Leinster is still 'up in the air'. The 24-year-old, who was called up to the extended Ireland squad for the Six Nations, referenced Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip as he admitted that his future was uncertain.
"Like the other two lads I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to do. It is still ongoing so it’s still up in the air, but hopefully it will be resolved soon," he said.
Munster captain Paul O'Connell set alarm bells ringing when he let his guard down and spoke of a move to pastures new earlier this season, but the Ireland captain looks set to finish his career a one-province man when the finer points of his new deal are finally worked out.
Given how the inspirational second-row has been afflicted by injuries over the past three seasons, the French giants would be taking a gamble, but, such is his influence for Munster and Ireland, the totemic O'Connell is likely to continue to be one of the key players in the system until the World Cup at least.
With all of these players futures in Ireland undecided, which player do you think should be the IRFU's next top priority?
Cast your vote below and explain your choice in the comments below.