Heaslip and O'Brien rumours appear to be false

However, IRFU risk losing seven frontline internationals if they’re not offered market worth

 Leinster’s Sean O’Brien in action against Northampton last weekend. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leinster’s Sean O’Brien in action against Northampton last weekend. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 



Reports that Toulouse and Clermont Auvergne are poised to announce the signings of high profile Irish players appear to be false.

However, separate sources told The Irish Times the IRFU risk losing as many as seven frontline internationals if they do not offer the market value of those currently at the negotiating table.

The state of play regarding Seán O’Brien’s contract negotiations with the union and at least one French club remains unknown.

Remains in talks
Leinster captain Jamie Heaslip remains in talks with both the IRFU and French clubs Toulon and Montpelier. Clermont’s interest in O’Brien and Heaslip may have receded following the re-signing of former Chiefs number eight Fritz Lee on a long-term deal.

Munster quartet Paul O’Connell, Keith Earls, Donnacha Ryan and Conor Murray are also awaiting improved offers from the union. It seems highly unlikely Murray, despite last Sunday’s injury, will be allowed leave Munster.

Ulster and Ireland hooker Rory Best is the seventh player whose contract is up this summer.

Meanwhile, Bernard Jackman is to take over as head coach of Top 14 club Grenoble next season, where he is expected to be joined by Munster and former All Black centre Casey Laulala.

On crutches
Cian Healy, on crutches yesterday, had a scan on his ankle and will have to wait for medical instruction before knowing if he will be available for Leinster’s Heineken Cup tie against Northampton this weekend.

Also on a watching brief is O’Brien, who received a dead leg as Leinster emerged relatively unscathed from their trip to Franklin’s Gardens.

But even for healthy players this week is something of a waiting game and Ian Madigan must also bide his time as the sparring for the outhalf position continues with Jimmy Gopperth.

Given last week’s outcome the obvious question is why change. But like Joe Schmidt before him, Matt O’Connor is not a coach to allow his players assume selection. Madigan has learnt to be patient.

“I didn’t look at the first Heineken Cup game of the season and say ‘here’s my big chance and now it’s gone’, ” he says. “Likewise when Jimmy got the second start against Castres, I was more focusing on what I could improve on myself, and just working closely with Matt to learn the new game plan and the style of play that he wanted. Yeah, it would have been easy to let myself get frustrated.

Tight enough selection
“At the end of the day we came up to the first Heineken Cup game and I’d played outhalf twice and I think Jimmy has played it five or six times. The Munster game didn’t go great for me personally, and it came down to tight enough selection and Matt went with Jimmy and it worked out really well.”

Gopperth is providing him with a lesson of professional rugby life just by being in the paddock this season. And despite his international credentials Madigan is willing to watch and listen. Gopperth is pushing and Brian O’Driscoll outside him is pulling. There Madigan is learning the value of over a decade of experience, the last season he will have personal direction from the outside centre.

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