Munster fans are having to come to terms with the all but certainty that their second row warrior Donnacha Ryan will leave the province this summer following the failure by the IRFU to offer the 33-year-old a central contract.
Despite Munster stepping up and offering their veteran talisman a two-year contract extension, director of rugby Rassie Eramus confirmed that Top 14 side Racing 92 had swooped and made an offer the Limerick-based side simply cannot match.
In the form of his life following a massively impressive Six Nations campaign, it seems strange that the IRFU would not choose to keep one of their best forwards on these shores.
Perhaps it is the fact that at 33, he has two, maybe three, years left before time catches up with him. Perhaps he is therefore expendable. If this were the case, then why was Jamie Heaslip, also 33, offered a central contract in recent months?
This is a point former Ireland international Tony Ward makes while writing for the Irish Independent on Tuesday.
“As I understand it, Munster have been doing everything they can to get Ryan to see out his playing days in Limerick. To do that, the key piece was a central contract with the IRFU.
“But apparently the governing body and its performance director David Nucifora deem Ryan too old.
“He will be 34 in December; to put it in context, he is only four days older than Jamie Heaslip.
“Given that Heaslip has just signed a new IRFU contract for Leinster up until the end of the 2019 World Cup (and I fully endorse the Union’s decision to offer him that deal), what does that tell you about Ryan and how he is rated in the corridors of power?”
Ward goes on to question the inconsistencies of the decision taken by Nucifora and the IRFU.
“At best it smacks of inconsistency and at worst an apparent indifference that all but holds the au revoir door open to Ronan O’Gara, Racing 92 and this French move now.
“Given the hardline stance taken by Joe Schmidt and Nucifora on players plying their trade abroad, it in effect means that this definitive Munster warrior could have made his final appearance in green.”
He does, however, recognise the difficult role the performance director has within the IRFU and points out that while we may not understand or agree with some of the decisions taken, there have been strong positives coming from some of those difficult choices in recent times.
“In defence of Nucifora in a Munster context, were it not for his decision to block Wallaby skipper Stephen Moore’s proposed move to Thomond in the aftermath of the 2015 World Cup, I doubt Niall Scannell would be remotely close to where he is now – the hooker simply would not have got the game-time to force his way into the Ireland set-up.”
Ultimately for Munster fans, this is an extremely bitter pill to swallow. Ryan has given 13 years to his beloved Munster, biding his time as understudy to the massive partnership of Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan.
Now, when he has finally stepped into the spotlight of his own making, it appears he has been abandoned by the country he has so patiently and so passionately served.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena