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More Than Zebo And Madigan To Worry About - Irish Players Out Of Contract This Year

More Than Zebo And Madigan To Worry About - Irish Players Out Of Contract This Year
By Chris Kane Updated

With the World Cup now a distant memory and focus turning back to the provinces, all four Irish sides could be in line for a serious reshuffle come the end of the season. Many Irish internationals will look to lock down their futures in the coming months with as many as ten of Ireland's starting XV from the World Cup campaign in line for new deals.

Speculation surrounding Irish players moving abroad is rife at the minute, with names like Simon Zebo and Ian Madigan being linked with big money moves to France and England respectively.

Madigan could be in line for a move to Bristol in a deal which would net him a reported €500,000 a year while Zebo is being heavily linked with Munster's current champions cup pool opponents Stade Francais.

Regardless of the fact that both of these moves would benefit these players past the obvious financial aspect, it also creates a massive problem for the IRFU. Not only can the IRFU not afford to match the offers being made by the money drenched English and French league, but this would also mean that, under the current rules, neither would be available for international duty.

Yes there have been examples in the past when they have relaxed these rules but it would not be unprecedented to see these rules enforced more stringently in order to deter players from chasing the big money deals abroad in a similar situation to the one ardently adhered to by the RFU.

Zebo and Madigan may not be the only players linked with moves outside of Ireland in the coming months as a string of other Irish internationals are also out of contract, a situation that could really have an effect on Leinster. Sean O'Brien, Cian Healy and Jordi Murphy are all out contract in June, as are the likes of Mike Ross and Eoin Reddan.

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O'Brien has already been speaking about the possibility of moving abroad and he certainly didn't seem aghast at the thought of it. The likes of Healy, Murphy, Ross and Reddan surely have to be kept in mind as well so you'd have to think that Leinster and the IRFU have their work cut out over the coming months.

As for the other provinces, it's a similar story but not to the same extent as Leo Cullen's side. Ulster have Rory Best and Jared Payne out of contract while Munster, who already have to consider a new contract for Simon Zebo, must work on deals for Conor Murray and Keith Earls also.

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For Connacht, they only have one name to consider from an international perspective, that of course being Robbie Henshaw. Ever since his arrival to the Irish national set up, Henshaw has been heavily linked with a move away from Connacht and while recent comments seem to rule out a move to France, for now, a move away from the Sportsgrounds seems imminent.

Leinster have long been the front runners to land his services but with a long list of players to re-sign for next season already, perhaps Munster could yet be in with a shout of attracting the 22 year old.

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The IRFU will surely do everything within their power to keep top quality talent in Ireland but this is proving more and more difficult. With Johnny Sexton's contract part funded through private money in the form of Denis O'Brien's Topaz group, it's clear that the traditional revenue streams aren't enough to compete with the likes of England and France. What that means for this year's round of contract negotiations is not yet clear but it seems the IRFU are certainly going to have a battle on their hands over the coming months.

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