IRFU defends restrictions on foreign signings
December 28, 2011
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has criticised the timing of the IRFU's refined player contract policy © Getty Images
The Irish Rugby Football Union has defended their recently-refined player contract policy that will put a strict limit on the number of overseas players recruited by the country's provinces.
The radical stance will significantly reduce the number of foreign players signed to the leading provinces with Leinster, Munster and Ulster collectively limited to one non-Ireland qualified player per position as of the 2013-14 season. The aim is to have two Irish-qualified players in every position gaining regular top flight experience for the benefit of the national side. Connacht are included having recently commenced an independent programme of structural and performance development in agreement with Irish rugby's governing body.
The detail and timing of the announcement has been criticised by Leinster boss Joe Schmidt while his Ulster counterpart Brian McLaughlin was disappointed that the coaches were not consulted on the issue before the policy was set in stone. But the IRFU's director of rugby Eddie Wigglesworth has responded by stressing the importance of a successful Ireland side.
"The IRFU have a responsibility to deliver for the national team," Wigglesworth told the Irish Times. "Joe is not one of these guys who just takes a personal view in terms of what is best for him. He has a very holistic and long-term approach but, at the end of the day, he is only going to be here for four or five years.
"We have been around for 130 years and we have to be around successfully for another 130 years. We have to take a much wider scope of things. That is the key to this: a provincial coach will only look, with the best will in the world, two or three seasons forward because that's the landscape in terms of their contract. The national telescope, when it goes up, has got to look to the 2015 World Cup and 2019. That's the difference."
Despite these objections, the IRFU will not be reviewing their new stance, although Wigglesworth conceded exceptions will be made in special circumstances. "The four guiding principles that we have down are non-negotiable. However, if there is a situation where a province is weak, either because of a range of injuries, or where we have sat down and identified that their succession strategy has been deficient and the consequence of which is they haven't got a second line player of the quality that would enable them to continue their current level of success in Europe, then obviously we would have to be quite pragmatic and adjust the policy within the framework."
Irish Rugby Football Union's four guiding principles to deliver two experienced players in all 15 positions:
1. One non Irish eligible (NIE) player only in each of the 15 field positions across the provinces of Leinster, Munster and Ulster e.g. one foreign player allowed across all three teams per position.
2. For the season 2013-14 and onwards, for any given position involving a contracted NIE player, a province will not be permitted to renew that NIE player contract or bring in a new NIE player into that same position in its squad.
3. All future provincial injury replacement players must be eligible for selection for Ireland.
4. All future provincial NIE player contracts will be position specific.
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