One of Ireland’s leading rugby agents has warned that a number of the country’s major stars have yet to secure their futures as the IRFU continue to hold off on contract discussions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Former Leinster winger Niall Woods, who now works as an agent for Navy Blue, said it is a stressful time of the year for players with the Union seemingly reluctant to get contracts rubber stamped given the current financial climate.

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The Christmas period is usually a busy window for contract negotiations in Ireland, but a number of key players who are out of contract at the end of the season have yet to secure their futures.

Keith Earls, Jonathan Sexton, Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, CJ Stander, Tadhg Furlong and Peter O’Mahony will all be out of contract in June 2021.

“We’re just six or seven months away and there’s no idea what’s going on,” Woods told The Irish Times.

“Clubs in the UK and France are doing a bit of recruitment, but the IRFU are still not letting provinces negotiate.

“Particularly older players, with a wife and kids, carrying more responsibility, need some order soon. It’s harder for them than the single men or youngsters coming up the ranks.

“By this time of the year I’d have about eight to 10 contracts complete, but I’ve none now.

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“This is across the board though, there’s no recruitment at all. It will be a stressful few months for many, but it’s confusing because English and French clubs are starting to make moves. People are saying we can’t do this or that with Covid – but if others can, why can’t we?”

“Close to 90 (players) will be out of contract this June. There’s probably only close to 200 contracts across the country, but it’s hard to know because they’re not all made public, some are development contracts etc, so it’s hard to know . . . but either way it’s a large percentage who will be wondering what’s happening.”

In response to Woods’ comments, the IRFU commented: “The IRFU and Rugby Players Ireland confirm that we are in continuing dialogue about a range of Covid issues, including how best to proceed with contracting of players in light of IRFU financial uncertainty.”

The IRFU have been hit hard by the global health pandemic, and the Union’s recent annual report announced a deficit of €35.7million. Twelve months previously the IRFU had recorded its best ever financial year, reporting a surplus of over €28m.

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In September, IRFU CEO Philip Browne warned that the professional game in Ireland would be under major threat if supporters continue to be locked out of stadiums in 2021.

IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora is set to speak to the media later today, where the subject of player contracts is sure to be discussed.

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