Munster captain Peter O’Mahony is talking to French and English clubs after rejecting the IRFU offer to retain his services on a national deal past the 2019 World Cup. The 28-year-old’s current contract ends in July.
Two French teams and one English side have expressed an interest in signing the man who captained the British and Irish Lions against New Zealand last summer.
One of the French offers, The Irish Times has learned, is willing to double the salary tabled by the IRFU's chief negotiator David Nucifora.
O'Mahony's agent, Conor Ridge of Horizon Sports Management, has brought in Ryan Constable of Esportif International as they have ties to licenced French agents needed to finalise a move to the Top 14.
The interested English team is actively seeking a club captain.
"It would be nice to get it sorted, yeah. We'll see though," O'Mahony told The Irish Times last Saturday. "Ideally I would like to [stay]. I like it around here, but they've got to come to the table as well. I want to play for Munster and Ireland, but it's got to be fair as well."
Currently, O’Mahony and his advisors feel that the IRFU are falling some way short of his market value.
Ridge, who previously represented Rory McIlroy, recently signed Johnny Sexton to Horizon.
The primary IRFU means of keeping players is the lure of playing at a World Cup but their stated inability to compete financially with billionaire foreign club owners has seen Sexton, Marty Moore and most recently Simon Zebo agree terms to leave Ireland.
However, in most cases, the overseas experience has proven more negative than positive. Sexton was flogged during his two years in Paris with Racing 92.
"I'm not sure he's had the same resilience since then," said Ireland coach Joe Schmidt recently.
Marty Moore at Wasps, JJ Hanrahan at Northampton and Ian Madigan at Bordeaux were unable to command regular starting roles. Moore has signed for Ulster and Hanrahan returned to Munster but Madigan opted for a lucrative deal with Bristol in the English Championship.
O’Mahony’s potential willingness to leave is comparable to Zebo in that his wife has French family. The current IRFU offer would have also factored in his injury profile; the most recent knee injury ruled him out for a year from October 2015, which meant he didn’t regain his place in the Ireland backrow until Jamie Heaslip’s unsolved injury before the England game last March.
He was subsequently named man of the match.
Losing O’Mahony would be a major blow to new Munster coach Johann van Graan as the South African is already planning for life after Zebo from next season.