herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Blues want to keep Fitzgerald but talks on IRFU deal failing

IRELAND wing Luke Fitzgerald could be on the brink of leaving Leinster.

It is understood there is a chasm in value placed on him by the Irish Rugby Football Union and his advisers, which are headed by his father, former international prop Des Fitzgerald.

Leinster chief executive Mick Dawson has to sit and suffer in a system where the national contract takes the issue out of his hands.

“It has been ongoing for some time now. It is no secret that Luke wants to stay with us. He is one of us. The IRFU want him to stay,” said Dawson.

The problem is that there are reports coming through that the IRFU offered him a 30pc reduction in his salary, from £280,000 to £200,000, to extend his contract for two years.

“The negotiations have been long, drawn out and torturous. I don’t know where it’s going to go. It is where it is at the moment.”

The well-documented injuries and loss of form suffered by Fitzgerald in the last year obviously planted the seed of doubt in the minds of the money men at the IRFU.

Doubt

“I don’t think anyone who has been following rugby in the last five or six years would be in any doubt about what a good player Luke Fitzgerald is,” said Dawson.

“There is no doubt with our ambition, where we want to stay and go in the game. We need to keep our best players at home.

“He is a very valuable part of what we do. We definitely would like him to stay at the club.”

There is speculation that Leinster could make up the difference between what the IRFU have offered Fitzgerald in order to keep him.

“An Irish contract is an Irish contract. A Leinster contract is a Leinster contract,” added

Dawson. “The two don’t overlap. There is nothing we can do about it.”

There has long been “talk” about interest from French clubs, perhaps from some of those who have suffered from his footwork and rapier-like attacks in the past.

Best

Certainly, Fitzgerald recovered his form by the turn of the year, putting in his best display of the season in shredding Bath at the Aviva Stadium in the Heineken Cup.

It was then that the dread of injury took him out of the picture for Six Nations selection and with it went an opportunity to put the pressure right back on the IRFU.

“Everyone is working hard to get it over the line,” said Leinster manager Guy Easterby.

“Sometimes going through these negotiations take a little bit longer. It is just one of the ones that is taking its time.

“You would obviously be worried because you want Luke to be here, put his name in the succession planning for the next couple of years and pencil him in. That is the way the business is. That is going to happen from time to time with certain contracts.

“Keep working hard on it and hope it comes down in our favour.”

Fitzgerald admitted earlier this month that he would be open to a move away from Ireland at some point in his career.

“There’s always scope for (a move elsewhere) and I think at some stage it would be a great experience. Not just for me, rugby-wise. But for me, personally, to test myself in a different environment,” he said.

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