Saturday 24 June 2017

Joe Schmidt: It's great to see players follow their heart and not their bank balance

Irish boss delighted Keith Earls turned down bumper deal

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, left, in conversation with Keith Earls
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, left, in conversation with Keith Earls
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Munster have been given a huge lift with news that Keith Earls and Conor Murray will be on board for the next three seasons as Ireland coach Joe Schmidt hailed his star players for turning down lucrative moves abroad to commit to Irish rugby.

The IRFU yesterday persuaded Earls to change his mind on taking up a three-year contract at Saracens, 48 hours after he had informed them of his decision to leave.

That deal, reported in Tuesday's Irish Independent, prompted an outcry from fans of the southern province.

Crucially, unlike Leinster's Marty Moore, he had not signed any agreement with the English club and performance director David Nucifora came back with an eleventh-hour improved offer believed to be in the region of €300,000 which prompted the Moyross native's U-turn.

Schmidt played his part in convincing the versatile back, who he started in all five World Cup games last autumn, to remain in Ireland.

Murray, meanwhile, has also signed on until 2019, having previously signalled his intention to do so. The Lion is understood to have joined the IRFU's top earners on around €400,000.

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The double signing comes as a relief for Munster, who will now hope that Simon Zebo can be convinced to resist the lure of interest from France, while the IRFU will hope that the signature of two key players will cool talk of an exodus after Moore and Ian Madigan's departures from Leinster.

Speaking at the launch of the Six Nations before the deals were announced, Schmidt said players were turning down lucrative offers from abroad to remain in Ireland.

"There are guys giving up good sums of money to stay where they are, to play for their country and play for their province," he said.

"It's one of the fantastic things that is still slightly amateur about rugby that people still follow their hearts a little bit, not just their bank balance.

"I'd like to think that we also add value and that they also know they're going to be looked after.

"There's more to making a decision than that retainer value. There are some other advantages in staying in Ireland, whether they be player management, whether they be playing with the guys you grew up playing with and you feel a sense of identity with and therefore you want to play with."

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