London Irish ready to swoop for Ryan
Munster face a renewed threat in their ambition to hold onto second-row Donnacha Ryan after the 30-year-old emerged as a leading target for London Irish, who will today unveil takeover plans led by an Irish businessman.
Cavan man Mick Crossan -- who has a fortune estimated at some €50m, is a keen London Irish fan and the chairman of recycling and waste management company Powerday -- is reputed to be keen on re-establishing the Premiership club's dwindling links with Irish players.
Ulster's Grand Slam-winning prop, Tom Court, has already agreed terms to sign a lengthy deal with the club, whose sights are now set on Irish players, with Ryan topping the queue.
Perpignan were Ryan's chief suitors after the Tipperary native was a guest of the club recently, but last week their manager Perry Freshwater confirmed to this newspaper that the Top 14 club's interest had significantly cooled.
Ryan's career at Munster was initially stymied by established players such as Paul O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan and Mick O'Driscoll for lengthy periods and the late bloomer may still see a move abroad as an attractive opportunity.
London Irish are likely to be able to punch above the IRFU's weight in terms of the numbers and they have already shelled out this week to retain playing control of scrum-half Conor Murray.
The Union are believed to be maintaining a conservative approach to contracts given their financial status and the turmoil afflicting the long-term future of the European club game.
Crossan, who also has close links with Chelsea, employs Bob Casey, the former Leinster lock and one of the few Irishman to play for a club in recent years who have not only become less Irish, but even less London, after moving from their traditional Richmond base to Reading FC's Madejski Stadium.
A new 57-acre training complex in Sunbury is helping London Irish to entice new players and the sale of their former grounds will aid their ambition.
It does appear though that the terms of a long-term rental agreement may prevent them from switching from their current Reading base for the time being. The club have called a news conference at their training ground in Sunbury for this morning, where they will announce further details of the takeover.
Three members of the consortium will be present at the news conference, along with director of rugby Brian Smith.
The side, currently in 11th place in the Premiership, have been owned by hundreds of individual shareholders for several years.
Meanwhile, fit-again Tommy O'Donnell has been added to Munster squad as allowed by ERC organisers under Heineken Cup competition rules, with Niall Ronan de-registered.