Belfast Telegraph

Kearney could be lured to France amid deal impasse

 

Cup aim: Rob Kearney
Cup aim: Rob Kearney
Cian Healy
David Kelly

By David Kelly

Rob Kearney is seriously considering offers to play club rugby in France as contract talks with the IRFU continue to stall.

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The Irish and Leinster full-back (33) is contracted until the end of the World Cup but, given his age profile and his current status as one of their highest-paid players, the IRFU are keen to substantially reduce his current salary.

Kearney is believed to be earning around €450,000 on his current deal, but the IRFU are reluctant to commit to a similar arrangement and that has led the player to explore other avenues.

Leinster may also be unable to commit themselves to a significant salary to retain their long-serving player, particularly if the IRFU and Kearney cannot come to an agreement.

It had been hoped that Kearney's contract talks would have been finalised in conjunction with the announcement yesterday that Cian Healy has extended his deal with the IRFU for another two years.

However, Kearney's name was a notable omission from the list of 21 Leinster players whose contracts were confirmed yesterday.

Kearney's manager Dave McHugh said: "We had hoped to have reached a conclusion by now. The discussion is live and open. But it has led us to check other options.

"The IRFU has made Rob an offer. But, if I am honest, it is well below where it needs to be - well below. It has been a little protracted. We are struggling to get it to a point where it makes sense for him."

Healy has penned a new deal which will take him up until the end of the 2020-21 season.

The 31-year-old Dubliner has won 88 caps as a loosehead prop with his country and is one of just three to have featured in all of Leinster's four European title successes.

However, four years ago, a bulging disc in his neck, which at one stage restricted the movement in his hand, threatened a premature end to what even then had been an outstanding career.

He was on the verge of signing an insurance form which would have summarily ended his professional life but, remarkably, managed to recuperate and even made the 2015 World Cup squad.

Since then, he has radically transformed his body and re-established his pre-eminence for club and country, starring in Ireland's Grand Slam triumph last season as long-term rival Jack McGrath, now Ulster-bound, lost his place in the prop idol charts.

Cian Kelleher returns to Leinster after three seasons with Connacht.

His return is an intriguing one, combined with the indecision surrounding Kearney, in what is now an extremely competitive back-three area with star winger James Lowe also soon to be freed from Champions Cup eligibility restrictions when Jamison Gibson-Park qualifies for Ireland this summer.

Meanwhile, Scott Fardy, who took in Wexford's Leinster Senior Hurling Championship clash with Dublin at Parnell Park last Sunday, has his sights set on more code switching this weekend.

The former Australian international's thoughts turn to the Guinness PRO14 final with another crossing of the codes, given the venue for Leinster's clash with Glasgow is the city's Parkhead stadium.

Quite a few Aussies have paraded their wares for Celtic there, notably Mark Viduka and Scott McDonald as well as, currently, Tom Rogic.

"It's obviously a famous football ground and I was saying the other day how I've played in a few of them now," said Fardy.

"I played in Newcastle last week and also in Bilbao last year. They are great stadiums, the crowd is right on top of you and it makes for a really great atmosphere."

Fardy's immersion in Irish culture should not seem all that strange. Such is his determination to thrive, he has rejected a chance to play at this autumn's World Cup; he would have been a natural choice for Michael Cheika, himself a one-time teak-tough back-rower.

And so, the 34-year-old, a late bloomer to the Wallaby shirt - he was 28 when he won the first of his 39 caps - has effectively turned his back on the international game.

"No one treats me like an overseas player here," he insisted. "I'm just one of the squad, I feel. I don't feel different to anyone else here.

"If someone is playing better than me, they're picked ahead of me. That's the way it is. I think that's the case when you play here."

Glasgow vs Leinster

Guinness PRO14 Championship Final

Celtic Park, Glasgow; Saturday, 6.30pm

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