HAVING missed out on the World Cup with Ireland and lost his starting place with Munster, scrum-half Tomas O'Leary is considering a move abroad to reignite his rugby career.
Sources indicate that preliminary moves are under way to gauge interest in overseas clubs, with a switch to the Top 14 in France a preferred option for O'Leary, whose contract expires at the end of this season.
O'Leary, who turned 28 last month, has won 22 caps for Ireland and was part of the Grand Slam-winning side in 2009, when consistent form earned him selection on the Lions tour before injury prevented him travelling.
Injury problems hindered O'Leary's participation in this year's Six Nations and World Cup warm-up internationals but, having established himself as Ireland's first-choice since 2008, he was a surprise omission from the 30-man World Cup squad, with Conor Murray, who has overtaken O'Leary as first-choice at Munster, joining Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss as one of the three scrum-halves.
French clubs have been unsuccessful in their pursuit of Ireland players in recent times, with Rob Kearney turning down a €500,000 offer from France to stay in Ireland and Jonathan Sexton also rejecting a lucrative Top 14 offer.
But with O'Leary no longer first choice for province or country, Top 14 clubs such as Castres and Toulon, without a frontline international scrum-half on their books, could use a player like O'Leary.
While most of Ireland's World Cup squad were home-based players, a move to the Top 14 would not rule out an Ireland recall for O'Leary.
"There is no official policy precluding Ireland selection due to where players are based," said the IRFU.
"While the IRFU obviously wants to keep all of our players in Ireland, it has not been as issue thus far."