Munster captain Peter O'Mahony has turned down an IRFU contract and begun discussions with French and English clubs.
The Irish Times are reporting that O'Mahony, who's current deal expires next July, has received an offer from a French club twice the the size of the salary offered by IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora.
The news will come as a concern to new Munster coach Johann van Graan as well as Munster fans who already are coming to terms with the loss of second row Donnacha Ryan and the confirmation Simon Zebo will move to France next season. Zebo is set to join Ryan at Racing 92.
O'Mahony would be a major loss to the province. The 28-year-old is in his prime and a vital cog in the Munster and Irish back-row. Last summer, O'Mahony captained the Lions for their first test. It is understood the English club pursuing him are seeking a club captain.
In the event of O'Mahony's departure, serious questions would be posed about the IRFU's contracting system. In the case of Simon Zebo, he was not offered a maximum national contract. It was left to Munster and a sponsor to try and convince him to stay, instead he opted for a six figure after tax increase in salary with Racing.
O'Mahony's Ireland and Munster back-row colleague, CJ Stander, is currently negotiating with Munster and not Ireland as Jamie Heaslip has the central contract for that position. Last year, Keith Earls was linked heavily with a move to an English club before he and Conor Murray both signed IRFU contracts.
O'Mahony's current deal expires next year, as does Ulster's Iain Henderson. Henderson has also spoken openly at the idea of moving, which in the past had proved a prime negotiating tool.
Speaking to The Irish Times last Saturday, O'Mahony said:
Ideally I would like to [stay]. I like it around here, but they’ve got to come to the table as well. I want to play for Munster and Ireland, but it’s got to be fair as well.
You can read the Irish Times article here.