We can't compete with French if they come after our stars - IRFU
THE IRFU can't compete and "have no intention of competing" with wealthy French clubs chasing Ireland's top international stars but are hoping players look at the bigger picture when it comes to planning their futures.
French clubs are in active pursuit of Irish internationals such as Jonathan Sexton, Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien and are offering sums the IRFU cannot match, but chief executive Philip Browne is hoping out-of-contract players will follow the example of Ronan O'Gara, Donncha O'Callaghan and Cian Healy, who recently agreed deals to continue playing in Ireland.
"We've been in discussions with every player we need to be in discussion with," said Browne, speaking at yesterday's announcement of Ulster Bank's sponsorship of the All-Ireland League.
"We can't bankrupt the IRFU. We have a much bigger role to play than just professional rugby. It's all about the club game and the schools game as well. We have a lot of agendas to manage.
"We can't compete with some of the money being bandied around in France and we have no intention of competing with them. The reality is I can't predict if we're going to secure every player. We make offers we think are fair and reasonable.
"We would hope the players would take a longer-term view and take a look at the bigger picture. It's really important for us that our international team is based here in Ireland.
"What we have offered to our players here is the ability to play top-class professional rugby in a competitive environment.
"We can protect them, in terms of making sure they don't get pushed and pulled, playing in excess of 40 fixtures if you happen to be playing in France."