Tadhg Furlong now one of Irish rugby’s top earners
Pay increase from IRFU comes as French clubs seek Irish props post 2019 World Cup
Tadhg Furlong: his soaring market value forced the IRFU to offer a significant pay increase, to €500,000 a year while still way short of the figures an international tighthead prop commands in the English Premiership or French Top 14. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Tadhg Furlong’s three-year contract, one of 21 contracts announced by Leinster on Wednesday, puts the 25-year-old in Irish rugby’s high earner bracket.
Having featured prominently during the Lions series in New Zealand last summer, the Wexford tighthead prop was able to command a salary of €500,000-plus, which only leaves him behind deals negotiated by Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton in recent seasons.
Murray signed a three year contract in 2016 up to the World Cup in Japan next year – making him the IRFU’s major flight risk. In 2015 Sexton agreed the most lucrative four year deal in Irish rugby history, worth around €700,000 per season, to return from Racing 92.
Private funding is believed to have supplemented the above salaries with Sexton’s commercial agreement facilitated by Denis O’Brien.
Jamie Heaslip, before his recent retirement, was earning close to €600,000 thanks to Bank of Ireland sponsorship. Despite his troublesome injury profile, Seán O’Brien also signed a lucrative six figure three-year contract that also takes him to Japan 2019.
But Furlong’s soaring market value forced the IRFU to offer a significant pay increase, while still way short of the figures an international tighthead prop commands in the English Premiership or French Top 14.
“I can’t say I seriously looked away but you poke your head out to look at your value,” Furlong said last December. “It might be the case after this contract that I might move away and look at different experiences, a different rugby culture outside the bubble. It’s more lucrative to move away but I had to look at the pros and cons of such a move.
“I would have made it quite clear through my agent and family and the IRFU that I wanted to stay here.
“I probably didn’t look too seriously further afield because I know I still have a lot of development to undertake as a player in Leinster and Ireland.
“The opportunity to be successful here drives me, especially with a group of players that I have come to admire, particularly the older ones.”
Leinster and Ireland have got their money’s worth with the Wexford man looking jaded (or just injured) when replaced by Andrew Porter after the hour mark of Saturday’s Champions Cup final in Bilbao.
In 15 appearances for Leinster this season Furlong has played 891 minutes and he started six of his seven Ireland Tests since the Lions tour – missing the Wales match due to a slight hamstring tear.
Furlong and fellow Ireland tighthead Andrew Porter are contracted past the World Cup, to 2021 and 2020 respectively, so that temporarily shields them as serious offers come in for Irish props from three major French clubs.
Cian Healy and Jack McGrath – both out of contract after the World Cup – are the primary targets.
What’s increasingly apparent is the feared mass exodus of Ireland’s best rugby players, if it’s ever going to happen, will start in the summer of 2020.
Jordan Larmour is among four former Leinster Academy players to be awarded senior contracts for the upcoming season. Vakh Abdaladze, Ireland under-20 captain Caelan Doris and Josh Murphy are the other three players to have reached senior status after coming through the ranks.
Abdaladze is a promising tighthead, Murphy’s a lock/flanker and Doris is one of the best backrow prospects to come out of Blackrock since the departing Jordi Murphy.
Joey Carbery may follow Jordi Murphy to Ulster this summer. Carbery is contracted to Leinster for another season so the player needs to seek a release from his home team, presumably on grounds that he’s been told by Joe Schmidt that it would increase his chances of playing for Ireland next season.
That has yet to happen.
Leinster Rugby – new senior contracts 2018/19: Vakh Abdaladze,Michael Bent, Ed Byrne, Seán Cronin, Barry Daly, Tom Daly, Peter Dooley, Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Dave Kearney, Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Nick McCarthy, Fergus McFadden, Ross Molony, Josh Murphy, Andrew Porter, Garry Ringrose, Rhys Ruddock, James Tracy, Josh van der Flier.