Jamie Heaslip meets French clubs after IRFU talks stall
Leinster star in France for talks with Toulon and Montpellier
It is understood that Jamie Heaslip, who became the highest paid rugby player in Ireland after signing a three-year deal in 2011, does not want to leave Dublin. Photograph: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Jamie Heaslip has opened talks with the richest club in world rugby, Toulon, after negotiations with the IRFU stalled, The Irish Times has learned.
Montpellier are also speaking to Ireland’s vice-captain about a move to the lucrative Top 14 league.
In a similar situation to Jonathan Sexton’s before he signed for Racing Metro 92 in January, it is understood that Heaslip does not want to leave Dublin.
Further discussions with the IRFU are expected but the initial contract offered to the 30-year-old is off the table.
Current European champions Toulon, owned by the comic publisher Mourad Boudjellal, would be an enticing option for any player. The multinational squad includes England’s Jonny Wilkinson and South African winger Bryan Habana.
Although Heaslip would still be available to play for Ireland, his departure from Leinster could signal an exodus of the country’s best players of a certain age. It would certainly affect the IRFU’s ongoing negotiations with other players, who include Ireland captain Paul O’Connell and fellow British and Irish Lions Seán O’Brien and Keith Earls.
There is also believed to be interest from several French clubs in O’Brien.