Jamie Heaslip is now a serious flight risk to France
Both Toulon and Montpellier are circling to sign up the Leinster and Ireland star
The Irish Times has learned that following the IRFU’s reduction of their original offer to extend his national contract, Jamie Heaslip is spending two days in France discussing terms.
The Irish Times has learned that following the IRFU’s reduction of their original offer to extend his national contract, Heaslip is spending two days in France discussing terms.
It is also understood that Toulon coach Bernard Laporte recently travelled to Dublin to meet with the two-tour Lions number eight.
Much like Jonathan Sexton’s failed negotiations with the union last season, it’s believed that Heaslip does not want to leave Dublin, where he is also involved in the restaurant business. He is also poised to succeed Leo Cullen as Leinster club captain.
However, following stalled negotiations with IRFU director of human resources Maurice Dowling a move abroad looks a distinct possibility.
Further discussions with Dowling and Heaslip’s agent Damien O’Donohoe are expected but the 30-year-old’s departure would make him the second player to reject a national contract, opting instead to take up the higher salary offered in France.
Sexton is six months into a two-year deal with Racing Metro 92. The outhalf had already played 13 games in 12 weeks when he arrived in Ireland camp last November.
That, however, appears to be a key difference between the Heaslip and Sexton situations. If the Ireland vice-captain joins Toulon – whose owner Mourad Boudjellal and Laporte are also in hot pursuit of Australia’s James O’Connor – or Montpellier, the week-on-week punishment in France would be reduced by both clubs’ rotation policy.
Regardless, Heaslip renowned durability looks suited to the 11 month Top 14 campaign. “I like playing 80 minutes,” he said recently. “I’ve got a good engine on me. I keep myself in reasonable shape. The best form of protection against injury, I find, is just getting out there, training everyday and keep playing.”
He certainly looks the ideal replacement for one of Toulon’s ageing number eights – Springbok Joe van Niekerk (33) or All Black Chris Masoe (34). Specialists in the position at Montpellier are Kiwi Alex Tulou and Scotland’s Johnnie Beattie.
Almost any cost
Heaslip’s departure would almost certainly mean Seán O’Brien’s signature would be secured at almost any cost.
O’Brien might even be allowed play more at number eight although 22-year-old Jordi Murphy’s form has also been outstanding this season.
Heaslip became the highest paid Irish rugby player when penning a three-year contract in 2011. That was brokered by Platinum One owner Fintan Drury but he has since switched agents to O’Donohoe and Ikon.
Stephen Ferris’ six-month extension with Ulster ends in January.