Sunday 18 March 2018

IRFU chief reveals Erasmus handed in his notice in the spring, and rejects Lam criticism


Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus
Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne has dismissed Pat Lam's criticism of the organisation's policy of including break clauses in coaches' contracts as he revealed that Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmsus told his employers he was leaving in the spring; months before his departure was announced.

The South African subsequently denied that he was heading for the exit doors before the province confirmed the news that he was returning home to take up a position with SARU in December.

On April 20, Erasmus was asked if he was "definitely staying" after his side had lost their European Champions Cup semi-final to Saracens and replied: "Yes".

Although he was not critical of Erasmus's actions and said the hunt for a successor was well under way, Browne said he did not understand Lam's description of the clauses in his contract as "bizarre".

Both coaches used their clauses to engineer exits from their roles, with Lam triggering his release to move to Bristol and Erasmus doing the same to bring about his departure in December.

"I found it hard to understand some of Pat Lam's comments," he said.

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne. Photo: Sportsfile
IRFU chief executive Philip Browne. Photo: Sportsfile

"The fact of the matter is that termination clauses in contracts are there for protection not only of the employee but also for the protection of the employer.

"That's something that's negotiated with each coach as they come in and it depends on the risks associated, the risks they see and equally the risk we might see. The reality is it is a protection for everyone. There was a nine-month clause in this particular case, Rassie called it and that's fine.

"Yes, it's not ideal but David Nucifora and Garrett Fitzgerald are working very closely together to find someone to come in to take up when Rassie leaves. That (the triggering of the clause) would have been earlier in the spring.

"There have been conversations from the word go. We know our colleagues in South Africa well, we sit with them at meetings; this isn't like clubs, this is union to union and we respect each other and we behave accordingly."

Browne, meanwhile, cautioned against too much optimism with regards to Ireland's bid for the 2023 World Cup.

Although he hailed the submission as "world class", he believes there is stiff competition from France and South Africa to host the tournament.

"There will be three world-class bids put in," he said.

"France and South Africa have great experience, the stadia, the infrastructure, all of that. There will be three really powerful bids in this, it's going to be a fierce competition.

"I wouldn't like to be in World Rugby, trying to make up their minds. If we manage to come out the right end of this, it will be a magnificent achievement.

"I am confident we have submitted a world-class bid. The team are world class in their own right. There are no foregone conclusions here at all, there are merits to each."

Former Ireland prop Phil Orr was last night elected president of the IRFU for next season.

see page 6

Irish Independent

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