| 10.1°C Belfast

Leinster and Munster plan for next campaign



On move: Bryan Byrne has switched to Bristol

On move: Bryan Byrne has switched to Bristol

�INPHO/Oisin Keniry

On move: Bryan Byrne has switched to Bristol

Strange times indeed for rugby as the coronavirus outbreak wreaks havoc with the Six Nations while a large shadow has been cast over the tournament with the prospect of it moving behind a paywall come 2022.

Away from the issues that are domi­nating the agenda, however, are more mundane matters which will have major ramifications on the futures of many players in this country.

Contract season is in full swing as clubs look to finalise their squads ahead of next year which, in turn, means fringe and younger players will be sitting uncomfortably as they wait for an offer or the reality that they must look elsewhere to further their careers.

For some, the writing will have been on the wall and the hope, from their point of view, is that clubs will have been honest about the reality of the situation.

However, knowing in advance that the best course of action - in the making or breaking of your career - is to move away, will hardly make it any easier to swallow.

Take Bryan Byrne for example. The Carlow native spoke honestly about his own predicament on "The Left Wing" podcast, revealing how Leo Cullen informed him in recent weeks that Bristol were interested in signing him as injury cover. The Leinster head coach was up front with Byrne, who was out of contract at the end of the sea­son. With no sign of a fresh offer, he made the difficult decision to leave.

The 26-year old - whose twin brother Ed is staying with Leinster for now - finds himself playing with one of England's most ambitious clubs under Pat Lam, who will be mindful of keeping Byrne on if he impresses enough from now until the end of the season.

With such a large squad, not to men­tion the plethora of exciting talent coming through the Academy, Lein­ster face more tough decisions over the coming weeks with clubs sniffing around their players.

Garry Ringrose's contract expires at the end of the season, but he is not thought to be a flight risk as he con­tinues his negotiations with the IRFU.

Another centre who could be on his way, however, is Joe Tomane, whose deal is also up this summer.

Munster have been very busy in the market, having signed World Cup winners RG Snyman and Damian de Allende, as well as Matt Gallagher, and offering contract extensions to Dave Kilcoyne and Andrew Conway.

There are also set to be departures with the likes of Conor Oliver and Sean O'Connor linked with moves to England. Ex-Leinster flanker Oliver has made just two appearances off the bench this season, while O'Con­nor (lock) is in the same boat.

Connacht face a tough task in try­ing to replace Colby Fainga'a, who is bound for Lyon next season, while taking stock of what is coming through their own system.

It is understood that Luke Carty, younger brother of Ireland out-half Jack, may depart as he completes his time with the Academy.

Belfast Telegraph