Tie up Heaslip and O'Brien or risk losing them – O'Connor
LEINSTER coach Matt O'Connor has urged the IRFU to act swiftly to secure the future of Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien, who have both been linked with moves to Clermont Auvergne when their contracts expire next June.
The Australian believes that the Union must learn from the loss of Jonny Sexton to Racing Metro last season and tie up key assets early in the season to allow them to concentrate on their rugby.
Heaslip is Ireland's best-paid player and shares an agent with Sexton and O'Brien. He has expressed a willingness to play abroad at some point in his career.
O'Brien, meanwhile, is on a contract he signed in 2011. Having started the final Lions Test in Australia in July, he can reasonably expect an improved deal.
Negotiations will take place under the backdrop of a tightened financial position after the IRFU struggled to sell half of their 10-year ticket renewals. The Union has admitted that it was unable to match €700,000-per-year deal that Racing offered Sexton last year and is bracing itself for more big bids for their best players.
"Yeah, ideally," O'Connor said when asked if he wanted the Union to move quickly and nail down their influential back-rows.
"It is always going to be that the guys are going to have to make a decision. Do they want to stay in a really good environment and potentially win things or do they want to chase financial rewards?
"We'll be having conversations with them and will be having those early to try and sign them up for many years."
There was some good news for Leinster fans as O'Connor confirmed that former Australia international Lote Tuqiri will sign in "the next week or two" on an expected three-month deal, while Gordon D'Arcy revealed he would not contemplate leaving the province.