Miller back in Ireland

 

Eric Miller will mark his return to domestic Irish rugby when he lines out for Ulster tomorrow week in the final round of the Guinness Inter-provincial championship against Connacht. So ends perhaps the longest running transfer saga involving an Irish player in the professional era.

After a month of negotiations, Leicester have agreed to the transfer of the 22-year-old Irish and Lions number eight back to Irish rugby. Miller's choice of province will be Ulster, who are without a win in four games this season.

This move follows the completion of negotiations between the player, the player's agent and the IRFU contracts committee.

John Baker, who represents Miller, expressed his gratitude to Leicester and IRFU personnel for the successful conclusion to the saga. "Quite honestly, and on behalf of Eric as well, Dean Richards, Peter Wheeler and Billy Lavery have been marvellous in all of this. It wouldn't have happened without the combined efforts of those three people. This is the main reason Eric Miller is back in Ireland and it should be acknowledged."

In return for Leicester's co-operative approach, the Tigers will have first option on the Lion should he decide to return to English club rugby at a future date. Furthermore, Leicester facilitated the player's homecoming by agreeing to a transfer fee of £25,000 stg in the event of him returning to Ireland. They would have demanded £50,000 if he was joining another English club.

Though the question of who pays the transfer fee remains unresolved (the Union will not countenance paying it), there seems little doubt that one of the 10 clubs to have expressed an interest in the player will meet Leicester's valuation. In the light of Miller choosing Ulster as his provincial destination, clearly signalling that he wishes to regain his place as the Irish number eight, Ballymena and Dungannon may join the list of prospective buyers.

However, it doesn't necessarily follow that his club will be Ulster based - Connacht's Conor McGuinness is at St Mary's and Munster's Barry Everitt at Lansdowne - and a more likely choice of club may rest elsewhere.

Miller's former club Old Wesley and Terenure head a posse of Leinster pursuers, which also includes Lansdowne, Blackrock and Wanderers, while Galwegians remain firmly in the hunt, and possibly Buccaneers and Cork Constitution.