Muliaina deal not in best interests of the game, insists Penney
Published 07/05/2014 | 02:30
ROB PENNEY has questioned whether Connacht should have been allowed to sign All Black legend Mils Muliaina by the IRFU.
The western province are exempt from the Union's rules that govern Munster, Leinster and Ulster when signing foreign recruits and have taken advantage by landing the New Zealander on a one-year deal understood to be worth more than €300,000.
He joins project player Bundee Aki and Craig Clarke, the Super Rugby-winning Chiefs captain who now skippers Connacht, having moved before the start of this season. Penney believes Connacht are being given an unfair advantage by the Union, who fund all four provinces.
"The frustration is around their ability to fund those new recruits," Penney said when asked to assess the Muliaina signing.
"What's it doing for Irish rugby? All the other provinces are obligated to have a limited number of overseas players except Connacht, who have obviously got a bit of a hand-up.
"They need a bit of a hand-up, but let's keep it real as well. There is a lot of work going on in the other three unions, Connacht just seem to get it a little easier.
"If they're able to recruit players at the level that they've signed, then I'd just wonder if it's the right thing for Irish rugby.
"There are a lot of good Irish lads who are just not getting access – we've got some in our environment and I'm sure Ulster and Leinster have as well.
"There are guys in the English Premiership who would love to be playing in Ireland and they're Irish eligible. I'd just wonder if it's in the best interests of the game."
Earlier, Joe Schmidt gave the thumbs up to the signing of Muliaina, who he believes can have a big influence on rising Connacht stars like Robbie Henshaw and Kieran Marmion.
"I think that he will definitely add value," said Schmidt, who coached the All Black at the Auckland Blues. "Hopefully that value will extend beyond Robbie – there's some good young players in the back three."