IRFU to ‘review’ contract system as tenth Leinster star to sign new deal

Jared Wright
Leinster versus La Rochelle; Jamison Gibson-Park of Leinster makes a run with the ball

Jamison Gibson-Park of Leinster makes a run with the ball.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) will reportedly review their contracting system with a 10th Leinster player to be offered a central contract.

Next season, Leinster will have 10 of their frontline players’ salaries paid for by the IRFU, while Connacht, Munster and Ulster will have just one player a piece on central contracts.

More central contracts for Leinster

As reported by the Irish Times, the review is scheduled to take place before IRFU performance director David Nucifora hands over all his responsibilities to his successor David Humphreys.

With 10 of Leinster’s best players’ salaries being paid for by the IRFU, the Irish province have been able to recruit the likes of Springbok lock RG Snyman and All Black utility Jordie Barrett ahead of the new season with Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou also linked to Leo Cullen’s side.

Springboks legend insists Leinster yet to get ‘full value’ from Jacques Nienaber

Currently, Leinster have seven players that are centrally contracted for the 2023/24 season, namely Andrew Porter, Tadhg Furlong, James Ryan, Josh van der Flier, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose and Hugo Keenan, but that number will grow next season, with Dan Sheehan and Caelan Doris’ deals already confirmed.

Ireland scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park is also set to be upgraded to a centrally contracted deal ahead of the 2024/25 season, and while Leinster’s stars continue to be rewarded, Munster has seen their number of IRFU contracts go from three players to just one.

Peter O’Mahony and Conor Murray have both signed extensions at Munster, but the salaries will be split between the province and the IRFU. That means just Tadhg Beirne will be on a central contract.

As for Connacht and Ulster, Bundee Aki and Iain Henderson will remain the only players centrally contracted, according to the report.

Springboks legend insists Leinster yet to get ‘full value’ from Jacques Nienaber

Leinster’s advantage

There is no strict limit on the number of central contracts provided each season, but they are usually reserved for the best players in Ireland and of importance to the national team.

Leinster are advantageously placed in the capital city and benefit from having the best feeder schools in Ireland and generate huge profits from their fixtures.

With many of their squad members being on central contracts, it means that they are also able to build depth in the squad and have been able to challenge for the United Rugby Championship and Champions Cup titles.

The IRFU could tweak the system to ensure that Leinster doesn’t become overly dominant against the other provinces with a more equitable distribution of wealth.

While Leinster have announced two high-profile arrivals ahead of the 2024/25 season, the other provinces look set to bid farewell to several stars, with Ulster in particular struggling financially.

Meanwhile, Munster may have to let centre Antoine Frisch depart for France if Les Bleus caps him in the upcoming July internationals.

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