Racing Metro line up shock move for Murray
On the day that Munster coach Rob Penney expressed concern about the Irish provinces' ability to retain top players in the absence of European competition, it has emerged that Racing Metro are preparing to swoop for Conor Murray.
The club which took both Jonny Sexton and Ronan O'Gara to France over the summer has targeted the Munster and Ireland scrum-half, who is out of contract at the end of the season.
And worryingly for Munster and the IRFU, Racing Metro president Jacky Lorenzetti is tonight a guest at O'Gara's testimonial dinner in Cork, where the wealthy owner is expected to step up his efforts to sign Murray.
Lorenzetti, who has a reputation of getting what he wants, is known to be a fan of several Ireland players but is especially keen on the first-choice No 9.
A handful of senior Munster players will attend the O'Gara dinner and then fly on to Glasgow ahead of tomorrow night's Pro12 clash, but Murray will not be among them. He is flying to Scotland with the squad earlier in the day, but it can be expected that Lorenzetti has sought to meet the 24-year-old.
It was believed Sean O'Brien was the player Lorenzetti coveted above all others, and he may be still interested in Leinster's back-row forward, but the prospect of Murray linking up with Ireland half-back partner Sexton is powerful motivation.
It is understood the IRFU have begun talks with Murray and all out-of-contract players, but these negotiations are at a preliminary stage.
Penney, meanwhile, has admitted the uncertainty surrounding the Heineken Cup's future could hinder Munster's bargaining power when trying to sign up their star players.
The speculation over Murray's future is sure to be a source of concern as property magnate Lorenzetti has overhauled Racing Metro with his millions since taking control of the club .
Apart from acquiring the services of Sexton, the Racing president also dipped into his vast coffers by recruiting a host of quality internationals, including Wales stars Jamie Roberts and Dan Lydiate.
While the IRFU have yet to make a formal offer to Murray, there have been preliminary approaches to the player but, with Toulouse, English side Saracens and now Racing just three of a growing list of clubs who are looking at Murray, they will need to step up their game or risk losing one of their most prized assets.