Munster agree deal over Warwick

Thu, Apr 2, 2009, 01:00

FEARS OF a protracted legal wrangle over Paul Warwick have been dispelled in light of Munster reaching an amicable settlement with London Irish over the contract of the Australian outhalf-cum-fullback.

Warwick had been tempted to join London Irish on a two-year deal when initially only offered a one-year extension by Munster, but on foot of the IRFU revising their decision to reduce the number of foreign players at each province from five to four, the European champions were able to offer him a two-year deal.

The player himself always preferred to remain in Munster with his wife and child and to both the province’s and the player’s relief he will now see out his new two-year deal with them.

The Australian continued his excellent form this season in masterminding Munster’s Magners League win away to Glasgow last Friday and probably offers them better strength in depth at number 10 than Ireland currently enjoy.

Munster will now be busily trying to recruit and upgrade existing contracts in putting some shape on their squad for next season after taking the difficult decision to release 11 of the current squad at the season’s end.

The players concerned are believed to have been informed of Munster’s decision last January, with Rua Tipoki, Frankie Sheahan, Kieran Lewis, Anthony Horgan, Federico Pucciariello, John O’Sullivan, Brian Carney, Mike Prendergast, Michael Essex, Mark Melbourne and Conan Doyle all to be released.

A replacement for Tipoki, who is again ruled out this weekend through injury, is seen as paramount for, although Lifeimi Mafi and Keith Earls form a richly talented midfield partnership, a high quality, frontline centre such as the Springboks’ Jean de Villiers is seen as the kind of acquisition Munster are looking for.

They have scope here, as the only foreign players signed up for next season are Warwick, Mafi, Doug Howlett and Nick Williams.

Felix Jones, the Seapoint and Leinster fullback, is set to link up with Munster next season and Tom Gleeson, who impressed recently at the World Cup sevens, is likely to be promoted, while the departure of Sheahan and Essex has created speculation that the province may be seeking to bring back Shannon hooker Seán Cronin, who is currently with Connacht.