'Maybe the landscape will change in 12 months' – David Nucifora hopeful Tadhg Furlong remains in Ireland beyond 2022

Tadhg Furlong, pictured here after making the 2021 Lions squad for the upcomiong tour to South Africa, chose to renew his IRFU contract for 12 months

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

IRFU performance director David Nucifora says he hopes that a changed set of circumstances in 12 months' time will entice Tadhg Furlong to put pen to paper on a long-term deal.

The Leinster, Ireland and Lions tighthead caused a stir when he signed a one-year deal that expires next summer, causing speculation that he may leave before the 2023 World Cup.

Nucifora confirned that Furlong chose to turn down a longer deal in the hope that the return of crowds will create a healthier financial situation for the IRFU.

“The players all looked at the contract negotiation differently. We’d have loved to have contracted Tadhg for longer, but that was his choice to sit back and say maybe the landscape will change in 12 months. That's his prerogative," Nucifora said during an online media briefing this morning.

“We’re happy he’s staying on, hopefully when we get back to the negotiation table we can convince him that staying is the best choice.

IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora. Image credit: Sportsfile.

“All we can do is operate within the financial boundaries and capacity that we have, what we've tried to do over the last five or six years we have continued to develop players to try and make sure we're not depending on one player as much as much as they're all important. “A few years ago when Mike Ross was the tighthead, who would have thought we’d have two tightheads on a Lions tour.

"So, player development underpins what we do. We're hopeful, I know the players appreciate what Irish Rugby does for them but at the end of the day it's an individual decision as to where they want to play.”

Nucifora outlined the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the union's coffers, saying the playing budget will be reduced by €5m next season.

"It’s obvious we need crowds back. It's important I thank Sport Ireland and the government who have been brilliant in supporting the IRFU and sport," the Australian said.

"We will have crowds back in during these July matches, just work out how many, and then hopefully close to full houses by the time the November internationals roll around.

"The provinces desperately need crowds, it's the lifeblood of their finances, the sooner we can fill stadiums with people it will go a long way to filling the hole financially.

"We lost €35m last year, we're on track to lose a further €30 this year. Unbelievably significant sums of money and as much as crowds will help this is long term issue. It will take years for us to claw back, but we hope we’ve streamlined ourselves to deal with that as best as we can."

One area that's been particularly hurt by the pandemic is women's rugby and the difficulties around the game here were highlighted during Ireland's Six Nations campaign.

Although there are moves towards professionalism in England and elsewhere, Nucifora believes Ireland must move slowly in its next steps.

"We’ve got to keep working away at developing the infrastructure here in Ireland, that’s the key to it. It’s about broadening the base," Nucifora said.

"We’re working hard to develop competition structures and the pathwat model for girls coming through, broadening the roles of our elite development pathway developmental coaches so they can take more responsibility to focus on the development of female players.

"We've got some other things in mind around competition structure, building the base.

"If the game wants to keep developing at the elite end and World Rugby wants to keep growing the exposure at the elite end, we have to have the capacity to meet those commitments.

"To do that, we have to keep bringing through a volume of players and a quality of players as well to be able to achieve that.

“It's a long term thing, there’s no short-term fix. There’s got to be a commitment over a long period of time to build a pathway that's suitable for the women's game."