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IRFU must 'adapt and evolve' to keep our best players here

LEINSTER chief Mick Dawson has warned that Irish rugby must be proactive in safeguarding against the threat of losing any more of its top talent to money-laden French clubs.

Jonathan Sexton has become the first marquee Irish player to be recruited by a Top 14 side. He has signed a two-year contract with Racing Metro and will relocate to Paris after this summer's Lions tour to Australia.

Sexton's recruitment has led to fears that this will encourage more French clubs to raid Irish shores for talent.

"The threat from French clubs will always be there," said Leinster chief executive Dawson (above). "The possibility of their offering players simply too much money to turn down is something we can't legislate for. I believe we have a good working model, especially with the 10-year tax rebate. But perhaps we would benefit from discussions to see what else can be done to help keep our players playing in Ireland.

"We have to adapt, evolve and be proactive. Perhaps Jonathan deciding to move to Paris will prompt that."

French clubs have always courted Ireland's top players. Brian O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara were both courted by Biarritz and Stade Francais respectively earlier in their careers.

The IRFU have always been able to hold onto their marquee players but it is feared that Sexton's decision will offer foreign clubs encouragement in their endeavours to persuade more Irish players to follow the out-half's lead.

Irish Independent