Contracts row will not affect selection
Although another annual row is brewing regarding the IRFU's contracts with English-based Irish players, it is unlikely to affect next week's planned announcement of a 26/28-man squad for next month's World Cup qualifiers.
A couple of contentious issues have arisen since the contracts were first sent to the 10 English-based players a fortnight ago - namely primacy of contract and reduced, more performance-based financial rewards - but although Friday's deadline is likely to pass without most of the players returning signed contracts, Irish manager Donal Lenihan said: "This will not preclude them from being selected in next week's squad."
"There are difficulties, but these are largely to do with the English clubs and if a player is willing to sign the contract pending further discussion with the clubs, then he's not going to be made to suffer for it."
The question of the `primacy of contract' clause, which the English clubs have said the players cannot sign, has invariably reared its head again. In truth, Irish players based in England who signed contracts with the IRFU last season were possibly in breach of their club contracts. The other bone of contention is the actual financial reward for the English-based players. Whereas last year the Irish internationals based in England signed a contract with a retainer of £15,000 (an additional £10,000 was paid to the Irish Lions for promotional work) which included squad fees of £800, this year's basic retainer has been reduced to £5,000.
Fees for attendance at squad sessions have also been reduced from £800 to £500. Furthermore, the match fee for English-based players has been doubled, to £2,000, with the win bonus remaining at £3,000.
Based on the same attendance rate of 12 squad sessions over the year, and match fees for this season's eight games, this would mean a seasonal return of £27,000 plus win bonuses.
That would constitute an increase of £5,000 on last season for an English-based international, although a reduction of £5,000 for an English-based Irish Lion on last season (including that additional payment of £10,000). The matter of money should be resolved given a degree of flexibility on both sides, whereas in the long run the greater sticking point could be the on-going dispute between the English clubs and the IRFU over primacy of contract.