Mack Hansen weighs in on the IRFU’s controversial central contracts

Jared Wright
Ireland's Mack Hansen during the Rugby World Cup 2023, Pool B match at the Stade de France in Paris, France.

Ireland's Mack Hansen during the Rugby World Cup 2023, Pool B match at the Stade de France in Paris, France.

Connacht and Ireland wing Mack Hansen has weighed in on the debate around central contracts and believes that the  Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) have “nailed it”.

The debate around whether the current set-up is fit for purpose has been raging this week after Leinster announced the signing of All Blacks star Jordie Barrett on a short-term contract.

His signing comes off the back of double World Cup-winning Springbok lock RG Snyman switching Munster for Leinster next season, with the addition of the world-class players made possible by the number of Leinster players on central contracts.

Next season, a total of 13 Ireland internationals will be centrally contracted, with the IRFU paying their salaries rather than the respective clubs. Scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park is set to become the 10th Leinster player to be added to the central contracts list.

Connacht, Munster and Ulster will each have one centrally contracted player each in Bundee Aki, Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson respectively.

Former Ireland hooker Keith Wood said that the vast number of Leinster players centrally contracted is creating “discontent” while it is reported that the system will be reviewed before current IRFU performance director David Nucifora hands over all his responsibilities to his successor David Humphreys.

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

Easy to complain

Despite the disparity, Hansen believes that those players who have those central contracts deserve it and that the system is effective.

“It’s easy to complain about, but which one of the guys that are on central contracts would you take off? I wouldn’t take any of them off,” Hansen told Irish media this week.

“Everyone who has them has earned them and deserves them. Every team would want to have more of those guys spread out but that’s just the way it is.

“They’ve all come through there and they all deserve them so there’s nothing else you can really do about it.”

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Tax benefits

It’s not just the central contract structure that is beneficial for the players but also the tax-free benefits of sports stars in Ireland that keep them from moving to the likes of France or Japan.

“It’s really smart, the way they’ve nailed it,” the speedster added.

“You look at the way that clubs do it in Australia, Rugby Australia kind of tops them up but it doesn’t really give them as much of an incentive, especially with the tax back and stuff here in Ireland as well.

“The system is just the best I’ve seen for sure at keeping players like this. So many guys stay because it just makes more sense.

“That’s the only way Irish rugby is going to get stronger and stronger, if you keep going. I don’t have a problem with the way anything is set up.

“I think it’s actually set up in a genius way.”

As for Hansen’s chances of getting a central contract?

“I wish,” he added. “I don’t know if there’s any going for any wingers. We’ll wait and see.”

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