IRFU increase their offer to Seán O’Brien
Jamie Heaslip’s representatives were expected to meet Toulon owner in Paris
Sean O’Brien: Considering lucrative offer of at least €500,000 to join Toulon.
The saga regarding the future of Sean O’Brien took another turn yesterday, with the IRFU believed to have upped their offer to O’Brien to stay within the Irish system at Leinster.
O’Brien had taken in the European champions’ Heineken Cup game against Cardiff in Nice last Saturday, and was considering accepting a lucrative offer of at least €500,000 after tax to join the club’s cast of multi-national stars after the IRFU’s offer to him fell short of his and his agent’s valuation.
However, The Irish Times has learned that the IRFU yesterday responded with a revised and increased offer to the player and his agent Fintan Drury of Platinum One to remain in the Irish system with Leinster. Hence, the 26-year-old’s future, whether with Leinster or Toulon, continues to be in the balance.
O’Brien is clearly utilising his enforced absence after a shoulder operation to resolve his future, and it would seem there might be a resolution sooner rather than later, ie if not by the end of this week then next week.
Asked yesterday if he was aware that O’Brien had been to Toulon last week and may be returning there, the Leinster coach Matt O’Connor said yesterday: “I think that’s true, he went over there last week to have a look.
“He’s got the luxury of a bit of time on his hands. You wouldn’t want to step in Sean’s way of going down there and looking at an environment and seeing what it offers him individually.
“I don’t think it has changed his opinion. He has expressed his preference would be to stay with Leinster and play in Ireland and that’s all we can go on.”
Meanwhile, French sources have suggested that one of Jamie Heaslip’s representatives was expected to meet the Toulon owner, Mourad Boudjellal, in Paris yesterday.
“There are negotiations ongoing with the two lads and their representatives,” said O’Connor.
“At this stage, they are indicating that they want to be in Leinster and playing in Ireland next year.
“That’s what we’re going off and we are working as hard as we can to get the deal done as quickly as we can. Ultimately, that time frame is out of our control.”
“We would all want it done and dusted but that’s not the reality of it. At this point, it hasn’t become a distraction for the environment.
“It’s part of the professional environment and I’m sure that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not too far away from being sorted one way or the other.”
The threat from the nouveau riche French clubs, especially after more than doubling their television income, has never been more apparent, as Leo Cullen conceded.
“People will always follow the money, that is the nature of it, but we would like to think here in the provinces – I speak for Leinster but I think it is the same in the others – there is a very attractive environment for players to become the very best they can become.
“We would hope that there is still a very strong value on that and on the collective will of wanting to represent your home province,” added Cullen.
“We have had a sprinkling of guys from outside who add a bit as well and there is a dangerous flood of guys going to France but we have only lost one player so far so I don’t think it is panic stations as yet.”
Leinster have also still to resolve the futures of Rhys Ruddock and Dave Kearney, although they have staved off strong offers from Castres, especially, and Exeter, as well as interest from Racing Metro, for their tight-head Martin Moore.