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15th Jan 2014

France? Good idea for Heaslip, bad idea for O’Brien, according to ROG

Ronan O'Gara reckons the Tullow Tank shouldn't become the Toulon Tank just yet but Jamie Heaslip would be right to make the move away from Leinster.


Ronan O’Gara reckons the Tullow Tank shouldn’t become the Toulon Tank just yet but Jamie Heaslip would be right to make the move away from Leinster.

From his vast experience in Ireland, and now with more than half a year in France as a coach under his belt, there are few better qualified to advise on whether players should leave Irish rugby for the Top 14 than Ronan O’Gara.

As always at this time of the year, speculation is rife about Irish players signing on with the wealthy French clubs, clubs that became even wealthier today as they put pen to paper on a TV deal with Canal Plus worth €71million a year. Starting next season, it more than doubles their current deal, worth €32m a year.

All of which only adds to the sense that the IRFU may be about to lose some big names, with Leinster duo Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip the names most recently touted.

However, speaking on Sky Sports today, O’Gara had some advice for his former Ireland colleagues.

“I think the set-up in Ireland is fantastic,” O’Gara told Sky Sports. “They are two separate cases. I think Seán O’Brien is 26 and has 30 caps for Ireland while Jamie Heaslip is 30 and has 60 caps so you’re not comparing like with like.

“Jamie is very durable and could easily stand up to the move and maybe it is time for him to make the best of his career and what’s best for him financially and set himself up for the future. I think he has given everything to Leinster and Ireland so there comes a time where maybe yes he needs to do this.

As for O’Brien, ROG thinks the Carlow man should stay at home. For now. “I think that someone like Seán O’Brien the same can apply in four years time. He doesn’t need to make the move now. But, we’re not privy to the deal that has been put on the table and he could be set up for a great career when rugby does end.

Will the lads listen? Will the IRFU be able to offer anything close to what the Top 14 can offer now in light of the new deal. Interesting times…