Munster will look to bolster second row after losing Ryan to Racing

MUNSTER INSIST THEY understand the IRFU’s decision not to award Donnacha Ryan a new central contract, with the lock now set to move to Racing 92 next season.

The province’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, said that Munster’s offer to Ryan came up short of what the wealthy Top 14 club had presented and expressed disappointment at what now looks like his certain departure this summer.

Erasmus also said that Munster will attempt to recruit in the second row after losing Ryan to Racing.

Ryan at Munster training yesterday afternoon. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Interestingly, Racing have not confirmed the signing of Ryan and it is understood that he has yet to completely copper-fasten his move.

However, a pre-contract has been signed and it would be a surprise if the Ireland international backed out at this stage.

The contract offer from Munster – funded by the IRFU, as with all provincial contracts – is thought to have come close to €300,000 per season when bonuses and incentives were factored in.

Racing’s contract is likely to rise above that and may even end up being higher than €400,000 per season when similar bonus payments are taken into account. Ryan will certainly be improving his annual earnings with a move to the Parisian club on a two-year deal.

While there has been general surprise and dismay in Ireland at news of Ryan’s exit, it’s understood that the lock has previously considered leaving Munster and even initiated discussions with the IRFU around a year ago about leaving the province early.

A well-educated and interesting character, Ryan has always been passionate about playing for Munster, but the prospect of sampling a new lifestyle and rugby culture is also an attractive part of Racing’s proposition.

Whatever about the reasoning for Ryan’s impending departure to France – these things always being multi-faceted – the loss will be a blow to Munster, given his experience and form in the second row this season.

“I guess if we had more money then we could have kept him,” said Erasmus yesterday. “I don’t think it’s a matter of Donnacha chasing money. I think it’s a tough situation for a guy like him, he is 33-years-old.

Ryan with Billy Holland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I don’t want to speak on behalf of him, but I’m sure he will say the same when you get to chat him – he has probably got one big contract left in him. Rugby players just have a short-ish lifespan, earning enough money.

“We gave him an offer of two years and obviously a team like Racing has got more money, and I think he had to make a career decision, which has not been confirmed yet.

“Obviously, when he loses his national contract the whole cost comes back to Munster which unfortunately we can’t afford to try and match that. He knows we wanted to keep him and we really tried our best.

“I guess it is one of those things where you must be happy for him. If that’s what he wants to do, he served this club well, he has done great things for this club. Guys move on, you have to respect that and wish them all the best.”

The IRFU have faced criticism in recent days over their decision not to extend Ryan’s national contract beyond the end of this season.

However, Erasmus was not willing to add to the chorus publicly, instead stating that he understands the decision the union’s performance director, David Nucifora, and Ireland head coach, Joe Schmidt, have reached.

“I think everyone has to accept – and I hope David and Joe don’t think I’m talking on behalf of them – but they also have a budget,” said Erasmus.

“They have an amount of money that must go into national contracts and if you’ve signed all the guys you feel must be your best guys, and feel you’re going to win Test matches with them and there’s no money left, how do you cater for everybody?

“It’s not a matter of trying to convince and beg. There’s only so much money and there’s only so many players you can contract. In that way, we understand it and from a personal opinion, you might disagree, but that’s besides the point.

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Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“I’m not the guy who, when Ireland lose, has to face the music and say why did we sign people, why did we lose. So from that side, I totally understand, but that’s not to say I think he shouldn’t get one.”

Ryan has been a key player for Ireland this season, helping Schmidt’s side to wins over New Zealand, Australia and England, but the union clearly feel that with his age, injury profile, and their depth chart in the second row, they can cope without him in the coming years.

25-year-old Iain Henderson stepped up maturely alongside Ryan in the recent win over England, while Ireland will hope that 23-year-old Ultan Dillane bounces back from a poor season that has already been ended by shoulder surgery.

Ulster’s Kieran Treadwell is highly rated by Schmidt and the 21-year-old lock was in Ireland camp around Christmas time. Devin Toner is still only 30, while the likes of Quinn Roux and Billy Holland have featured in Ireland squads in recent times too.

Younger players like former Ireland U20 captain James Ryan and current U20 locks Fineen Wycherley and Oisin Dowling are also showing promise in the early stages of their careers, although they have plenty to prove in the coming seasons.

Munster, meanwhile, are now looking at recruiting another lock ahead of next season, as their options take a hit with the loss of Ryan.

“We will be thin at second row and we will have to make a few plans there,” said Erasmus. “If you just think, Mark Chisholm hasn’t played for a while and his contract comes up at the end of June. Dave Foley has moved on [to Pau].

“Jean Kleyn is going through a serious neck injury, he will be out for a few months. Billy will always be there, Billy is fit, he’s always available.

“Then there’s some young guys coming through like Darren O’Shea, but we’ll have to bolster the squad for next year, that’s definitely one of the positions we’re a bit thinner.”

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