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Provinces on ‘overseas’ collision course with IRFU

IRELAND'S provinces say they are at loggerheads with the IRFU over the union's controversial Player Succession policy, claiming that discussions on a compromise have reached "an impasse".

When the policy, limiting the use of non-Irish qualified players (NIQs) to position-specific roles from 2013/14, was announced last December, it was met by a storm of protest. The provinces questioned the strategy for being unworkable and inflexible, while legal experts also claimed the restrictions were "unlawful" (Irish Independent 20/1/2012).

Discussions with the union have taken place in an attempt to reach a compromise but provincial sources indicate major differences still exist.

The Irish Independent understands that the provinces have put forward proposals which accept that the national side should take priority with at least two Irish-qualified players starting regularly in each position, but are looking for greater flexibility in the areas of position-specific overseas players and the use of additional NIQs in exceptional circumstances.

The provinces are also happy with the Player Contract Review Group having full right to veto overseas targets, while pointing out that the non-qualified players who prompted the new recruitment directives were all signed with union approval.

It is further understood that the discussions have not produced any conclusive response to the legal issues within the IRFU policy, which appear to contravene EU employment laws.

However, while the provinces say they continue to be frustrated, the IRFU remain confident that the policy will be implemented successfully and insist there is "co-operation" between the union and the provinces.