Ireland back Ian Madigan has admitted that a potential move to Bristol would be "a massive risk" as speculation grows over his future.
Madigan is currently out of contract at the end of the season and weighing up his options following the return of Jonathan Sexton to Leinster.
Bristol emerged earlier this week as potential frontrunners to sign Madigan with the club launching yet another bid to return to the Premiership, having lost the last two Championship finals.
“I certainly wouldn’t be looking to play in the Championship. If you did decide to move to a club like Bristol, you’re taking a massive risk in them not getting promoted. That would definitely factor into my decision, if I was considering going there,” Madigan explained to the Irish Examiner.
“At the moment, [I’m] just going through the process of weighing up my options. Still waiting for Leinster and the IRFU to get back, but I think the way it is now, you have to look at all your options. I’m doing that at the moment, waiting for my agent to come back to me on what interest is out there.
“I’ll weigh up the pros and cons of staying here, the pros and cons of going elsewhere, the ambitions of the other clubs. The opportunities to play in the 10 position, or the 12 position.
"The style of play of Leinster going forward, and the style of play of other clubs that would be of interest. All the while, working closely with Joe Schmidt, and seeing what he thinks will be best for me moving forward in the Irish set-up.”
Madigan also spoke highly of Harlequins, another English club linked with his services.
“The appeal of a club like Harlequins is that they are a club that looks to win the Premiership every year," Madigan said.
“It’s very disappointing that they’re not in the Champions Cup this year. But, I’ve no doubt they will be straight back with their finish in the Premiership at the end of the season. You’ve got an Irish coach there, Conor O’Shea, who plays a very expansive style.
“You’ve got world-class forwards and backs. You’ve got the English captain. You’ve got Danny Care, a quality nine, the likes of Mike Brown, a tried and tested international.”
The 26-year-old, who has 25 caps but only six starts for Ireland, added that it was always possible that he could leave Leinster but remain in Ireland playing for another province.
“I think you’d be naïve to rule it out. The IRFU probably want to keep as many players in Ireland as possible. If you are within Ireland, you are giving yourself the best possible chance to be picked for the national team," he added.
“The further you move away, the further you’re hampering your chances of being selected for your country. So, it’s something you have to consider – to keep that option open."