Wednesday 21 February 2018

Fitzgerald future in doubt despite new Leinster deal

Luke Fitzgerald. Photo: Sportsfile
Luke Fitzgerald. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

LUKE FITZGERALD has finally put pen to paper on a new contract at Leinster, but his long-term future remains up in the air after he committed himself for just one season.

The winger has been a free agent since the start of the month, but his options were severely limited by the fact that he has been ruled out of action until January.

His next step will be up for discussion when he finally makes his return from the neck injury that ruined last season.

The Ireland and Lions star is believed to have taken a significant pay cut to stay at the European champions, who are now paying his wages out of their own budget.

Fitzgerald was mulling over a centrally contracted IRFU deal believed to be worth €200,000 a year when his season ended, but that was taken off the table when the extent of his injury was revealed.

Leinster's offer is believed to be less again, representing a significant fall from the €280,000 deal the 24-year-old signed up to after being part of the 2009 Grand Slam effort.

The winger has indicated that he would consider the option of a switch abroad and was linked with moves to France and England during the winter.

Having fallen out of favour with Ireland coach Declan Kidney, who left him out of last year's World Cup squad, and been snubbed by the union when they opted to withdraw from negotiations, the prospect of him leaving Leinster at the end of next season appears very real.

Coach Joe Schmidt expressed his happiness at retaining a player who was beginning to rekindle his best form before succumbing to injury last Christmas.

"We are delighted that Luke has committed to the province for another year," Schmidt said. "He is an outstanding talent and has played a major role in Leinster's recent success."

The province also confirmed that former Junior Springbok Quinn Roux had penned a one-year deal, while New Zealander Andrew Goodman has also joined as a replacement for Mat Berquist.

Former Stormer Roux has signed with a view to a longer-term move and the highly regarded 21-year-old second-row could become an Irish-qualified player if he stays with the province for three years.

Utility back Goodman (29) arrives with no Super Rugby experience, but he has been a prominent player in the ITM Cup in New Zealand and has also played in Japan.

Irish Independent

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