Social media learned of the IRFU’s blocking of Wallabies captain Stephen Moore’s potential move to Munster last night and many fans vented their frustration.
The province had been close to finalising terms with the 102-times capped Wallaby following the 2016 Super Rugby season, but the IRFU have blocked the deal. Munster are apparently extremely frustrated as they felt the player would have added greatly to their ability to remain competitive in the Champions Cup next season.
It is understood that the IRFU’s main reluctance centred around the fact that Moore would have denied homegrown Irish-qualified players game time. Munster currently have hookers Mike Sherry, Duncan Casey, Niall Scannell and Kevin O’Byrne in their senior squad.
This is not the first time Munster have been blocked by the IRFU. Rewind a few seasons when Munster were denied a foreign replacement for Ronan O’Gara following his retirement. Munster were instead forced to go with current outhalf Ian Keatley who has not risen to the standard expected of him at Munster. Fast forward a few months and Leinster lose Irish outhalf Jonny Sexton and are granted permission to bring in Jimmy Goperth – relegating Irish outhalf Ian Madigan to the bench.
There are two sides to the Stephen Moore debate. Many believe a better infrastructure at academy and club level should be in place so Munster do not have to look abroad. The other side to the story is that these marquee signings are necessary for player development. At 32, Stephen Moore may only play two of a the four season build-up to the World Cup. In these two seasons current hookers Duncan Casey and Mike Sherry could potentially learn and develop from a wealth of experience. Doug Howlett held a spot on the wing for a long-time for Munster but can anyone say his wealth of experience and talent did not help the growth of Irish talent like Simon Zebo and Keith Earls?
It comes down to two things. Firstly, Leinster are clearly treated favourably in comparison to Munster when it comes to international signings – despite the face that the majority of the International team make-up is Leinster based. Munster are struggling at the moment with depth, attendance and identity due to the academy not being able to keep up with the loss of ageing talent. Leinster fans will say Munster fans have a chip on their shoulder but the evidence is clear. The second issue is Ireland’s selection policy is too strict. People make the claim that look what happened in France – we are not asking for the selection policy to be as lean as France. We are simply asking them to loosen it. At the moment look at how the current selection policy effects Munster. Munster have two hookers who are a couple of seasons away from top International standard, while Leinster have two hookers both in the International set-up, yet Munster are not allowed to bring a hooker in – probably because Leinster’s Richardt Strauss is nearing retirement. The linking of the policy within the provinces while beneficial in ways to the International set-up, is clearly stunting the growth of the provinces.
Lets take another example from Leinster this season. Ireland are currently struggling at fullback with Rob Kearney the only current natural fifteen in the set-up. Felix Jones was forced to retire and Simon Zebo has been applied as an option there but Ireland has no clear natural fifteen if Kearney is injured. Leinster already have Zane Kirchner at fifteen, yet were allowed to bring in Isa Nacewa this season leaving them with two foreign fullbacks? Double standards. Now this isn’t an attack on Leinster, but the IRFU. If Ireland are to take it to the next level then these marque players need to be training alongside Irish players and playing against them a club level. The only way the gap between the two hemispheres can be closed is by playing more rugby against these players – why not on a week in, week out basis? The whole policy that if one province has a foreign player in a certain position and another is struggling in that position, they cannot bring one in because another province already has one is nonsense. A system along the lines of perhaps two marquee signings and any other four foreign signings would make sense. The IRFU decides if a player is a marquee signing or not which stops provinces from bringing in six world class players who will take up valuable starting positions. (Off topic slightly but I wonder how Munster fans will react if Robbie Henshaw signs for Leinster!)
In order for your International team to be competitive – your club sides need to be winning. New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup this year – is it a coincidence that a New Zealand franchise won three of the last four Super Rugby Championships?
What do you think? Do you agree? Is the transfer policy perfect the way it is or would you make some changes?