Bernard Jackman: Leinster ‘harshly treated’ by IRFU as ‘strange’ decisions slammed

Colin Newboult
Former Ireland hooker and respected pundit Bernard Jackman.

Former Ireland hooker and respected pundit Bernard Jackman.

Former Ireland hooker and respected pundit Bernard Jackman believes that Leinster have actually suffered at the hands of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) over the past decade.

The province came under fire last week after they announced the signing of Jordie Barrett, just hours after it was confirmed that Dan Sheehan had agreed a central contract.

There are concerns that the Dublin-based side are getting preferential treatment from the IRFU, resulting in a widening of the gap between them and the other three provinces.

Leinster currently have nine players contracted to the governing body, while another – scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park – is reportedly set to be announced soon.

Big difference between provinces

That means their tally would stand at 10, which is in stark contrast to Munster, Ulster and Connacht, who have one each.

Many onlookers are therefore unhappy with outgoing IRFU performance director David Nucifora, believing that his actions have helped create this situation.

Nucifora joined in 2014 and, under his leadership, the Ireland men’s side have enjoyed unprecedented success at international level, while Leinster have continued to be one of the leading teams in Europe.

However, Jackman, who played for Leinster between 2005 and 2010, takes a different view to many in his criticism of the IRFU.

“I am proud to be from Leinster but would like to think my time in Connacht, France and Wales has given me a bit of perspective. I actually think that Leinster have been harshly treated by David Nucifora during his reign,” he wrote in the Irish Independent.

“The central contract allocation looks biased towards Leinster but that’s where the best players are now. Which one of the Leinster ones shouldn’t be on a central contract?

“The fact that Josh van der Flier was world player of the year but stayed on a provincial contract for another season and that Jamison Gibson-Park, who is up there with Antoine Dupont as one of the best scrum-halves in the world, will only move onto one this month is strange.”

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Fellow former Ireland hooker Keith Wood recently insisted that Leinster should not be blamed for the IRFU’s system.

Meanwhile, Munster legend Donncha O’Callaghan praised the Dublin outfit for the way they have developed their business, telling RTE: “It was an incredible week.

“It was the most financially flexing week we have ever seen by any team in world rugby, to be completely fair, and I think it’s great.”

Affecting the other provinces

However, O’Callaghan’s concerns centre on how it is impacting the other provinces, with the great Ireland second-row believing that Leinster’s success is coming at a cost to Munster, Ulster and Connacht.

“We are now having the conversation that we know about for the last 15 years,” he added.

“Leinster have got funds, They are able to dig deeper than not only Irish provinces but other teams around the world and it’s to their credit.

“Both on the pitch and off the pitch, they are running their business like nobody else but it does come at a disadvantage to not only the other teams around the world but, more importantly, the other Irish provinces.

“It is trying to get the balance in that in terms of fully crediting them for what they have done on and off the pitch.

“They are what everybody else should aspire to be but just speaking on behalf of a Munster fan, it is an economy that we could never reach.

“We haven’t got that type of financial backing or support or demographic.”

READ MORE: Keith Wood: IRFU creating ‘discontent’ with contracting model but don’t blame Leinster for ‘unbalanced system’