Eddie O’Sullivan has stressed the importance of keeping both Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Porter playing their club rugby in Ireland for the foreseeable future.
Both Furlong and Porter have just one year left on their contracts with Leinster, with the former opting to sign just a one-year contract extension at the end of last season.
While it may be the case that Furlong decided to sign on for one more year to allow the IRFU to put together a better deal at the end of the season when financial difficulties created by the pandemic aren’t as prevalent, the short-term deal does leave a move abroad for the Wexford man as a distinct possibility.
Former Ireland head coach O’Sullivan was speaking on RTE and argued that the IRFU need to keep Furlong and Porter in the country to prevent a flood of players moving overseas.
Eddie O’Sullivan on Tadhg Furlong and the IRFU.
“What [Furlong] will be trying to do if he goes abroad is get the Sexton ticket. Where you can go to France and come back when it suits you,” O’Sullivan said.
“But I think they’ve got to keep him and Porter as well. They’re the two stalwarts that they’ve got to keep. So I think the IRFU have got to get their chequebooks out here because that could be a tipping point if they let them go.
“Because they’re two key players and they’re both going to be front and centre for Ireland over the next four years.
“The scrum is funny now but at the end of the day, five yards from your goal line or five yards from their goal line scrums are very important and props are very important.
“Tightheads are like gold dust at the moment…They’re holding the high ground – Porter and Furlong – over the IRFU. The IRFU probably realise that if they don’t get their chequebooks out and keep these guys it’s a tipping point.”
Eddie O’Sullivan and Jamie Heaslip discuss the contract situation at Leinster of a number of players – Ross Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter – with one year left on their current deals #URC #RTERugby pic.twitter.com/tcm0aGdvNF
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) October 3, 2021
Furlong and Porter could be Ireland’s starting props for years to come.
Both Furlong and Porter have been Ireland’s stand out performers in the front row over the last few years, which was highlighted by both being selected for the British and Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa this summer.
While they are currently the two best props in the country, both have played primarily as a tighthead, which has limited Porter to appearances off the bench for both Leinster and Ireland when Furlong is fit.
Porter actually played at loosehead as an underage player however, and recently shifted back to that position for Leinster’s opening United Rugby Championship match against the Bulls.
The switch indicates that coaches at both Leinster and Ireland want both Furlong and Porter to start for club and country instead of limiting one to being an impact player off the bench.