Former Irish captain Keith Wood believes the provinces and the IRFU will need to think outside the box if we are to keep our best players looking toward the future.
Both Peter O'Mahony and Tadhg Furling penned new IRFU contract's yesterday but undoubtedly English and French clubs were sniffing around, dangling bumper contracts in front of them, testing their nerve if they were to consider a fresh challenge and, or, a change of environment.
Wood knows better than anyone of the temptations of moving abroad, the former hooker represented Aviva Premiership side Harlequins between 1995-99, returning to Munster for one season in 1999-00, before returning to Harlequins the following year. Wood told an interesting story on Newstalks Off The Ball Panel today, about what helped him make a decision to go abroad,
The amount of money I was on in Quins was very similar to the amount of money I was on in the bank over here and I wanted to go and do it but actually I've had a lot of injuries and the reason I went was the CEO of the bank Roy Douglas of Irish Permanent was just class, and he said listen; 'I am going to give you an opened ended league of absence, so if you get injured you always have your job back.' That was the confidence I needed to play professional sport because I had an injury.
Granted at that time, rugby in the professional era was literally in it's infancy, but the reassurance from his boss that he would always have a job when he come back was what he need to here. He was being enticed but letting him know that he was valued just as much as he would be if we went abroad. Wood went onto further explain,
Tadhg Furlong is a different one for me - he's still a young prop. Even though in my view, he's the best tighthead in the world. I was very disappointed he wasn't shortlisted for 'World Player of the Year' this year. I think he's a class player but he's young and needs another few years to which he's signed a really good contract.
Props tend to play for a long period of time and if he can get a great contract here - he may get the opportunity to go away for a few years whatever - we just need to be able to think in that fashion.
We need not to be able to close the door entirely on somebody going away. We can close it for a year or two and say 'actually, you can go but we want you back after a while, this is your pension in the middle'. I don't know - we just have to look at things differently.
We can't be this blanket 'no way' and though that is necessary to try and protect what we have here so, as I say, we have to be innovative in that as well because we don't know what the actual route is for that
It is a provocative idea in a sense, let players leave so that they don't know what they are missing until they're gone, but because the financial incentives are so great nowadays, is this plan practical or even flawed? Only time will tell.
Listen to Off The Ball's Saturday Panel in full here.