Tuesday 20 August 2019

Keith Earls move to Saracens should end IRFU's 'ban' on exiles - Tomás O'Leary

Munster's Tomás O'Leary (Photo: SPORTSFILE)
Munster's Tomás O'Leary (Photo: SPORTSFILE)

Declan Rooney

Munster scrum-half Tomás O'Leary thinks that the IRFU will be forced to pick overseas players if the exodus of talent from the country continues.

The IRFU were last night locked in last minute talks with Keith Earls' representatives in an attempt to convince the Limerick man to remain with his home province, but it is believed that Earls has yet to sign terms with either club.

O'Leary said that he expected the top players will continue to be picked for Ireland wherever they play, just like occurred while Johnny Sexton played with Racing Metro.

"It's different for every case. Johnny Sexton didn't have any issue getting selected when he was out in Paris. So if you are good enough, if you are playing well enough they will pick you," said O'Leary.

"I wouldn't be privy to Joe Schmidt's thinking, or what the IRFU are thinking with regards to their policy for the selection of overseas players, but I think you will find, especially if one or two lads go, they will end up having to select their best players.

"We don't have a big enough playing population to be picky, especially if some of our best players end up starting to go abroad.

"It will be interesting to see what happens with Marty Moore. I think he will still be picked."

O'Leary said he hoped Earls remains with Munster, but that he would choose the best course for his career based on what was best for his family.

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"I don't know what Keith's thinking is. If he goes he is going to be a massive loss for Munster, and Irish Rugby," he said.

"Keith is independent enough to make up his own mind, and I'm sure he will. Hopefully the IRFU can pull out the stops and keep him here from a selfish point of view. But hopefully he stays."

Yesterday Munster coach Ian Costello admitted that everyone involved with Munster Rugby were keeping their fingers crossed that Earls' possible move to England was just speculation.

As a centrally contracted player, Earls contract talks were held with the IRFU, but Costello said his understanding was that those talks were progressing nicely.

Like Earls, Conor Murray and Simon Zebo are both also out of contract this summer. And while Costello indicated that talks with those three Munster players were ongoing, he admitted that such losses could have catastrophic consequences for their future planning.

"Look, everyone makes their own decisions separately, they have to look at their own situation and the feedback we have got is that the talks were progressing nicely," said Costello.

"We review these things on a weekly basis because they're important to our plans going forward.

"This has come as a surprise but we want to keep all three of those players, the three of those are top international world-class players. And if we are to be successful then (losing them) it would be a massive dent to our ambitions."

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