Irish Rugby
IRFU to restrict foreign signings
ESPNscrum Staff
December 21, 2011
Ulster's Ruan Pienaar feeds his backs, Ulster v Aironi, Heineken Cup, Ravenhill, Belfast, Northern Ireland, October 8, 2010
Ruan Pienaar is one such player who will be affected by the new laws © Getty Images
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The Ireland Rugby Football Union has announced changes which restrict the number of foreign players allowed in Ulster, Leinster and Munster's squad with a view to bolstering home talent.

The IRFU will limit Leinster, Munster and Ulster to just one non-Ireland qualified player per position across the three provinces. These changes have been made with a view to having two experienced Irish players across the 15 on-field positions for the national side. This means that, for example, if Ulster want to keep John Afoa at tight-head, then neither Leinster nor Munster will be allowed to have a non-Ireland qualified player on their books in that position.

The changes are to be brought in for the start of the 2013-14 season but the three provinces will not be allowed to renew contracts nor approach players following the 2012-13 campaign which fail to adhere to the new stipulation. If two provinces want to recruit a non-Ireland qualified scrum-half once the changes have occured, for example, then the IRFU's professional contracts group will debate whose need is greater. And in the case of Ruan Pienaar, for example, if Ulster want to keep him on their books then they may be forced to change him from a nominated fly-half to scrum-half to accommodate a foreign fly-half elsewhere.

In addition to the new rules, the IRFU have also stated that: "all future provincial injury replacement players must be eligible for selection for Ireland". Each province are also restricted to five non-Ireland qualified players in their squad.

Connacht will not be affected by the changes as they "recently commenced a new programme of structural and performance development agreed with the IRFU".

IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne said: "The challenges for the IRFU and the provincial teams are to continue to try to be successful at all levels, but balance this by recognising the model under which Irish rugby has produced that success over the last 12 years.

"The provincial teams have contributed hugely to the achievements of the Ireland team, but it is important to remember that the Ireland team is the marquee competitive outlet for the game in Ireland and also the financial mechanism that funds rugby at all levels.

"On this basis, it is essential that the Ireland team is given every opportunity to remain competitive at international level and to do that, it requires Irish-qualified players to gain continuous experience at club and provincial level.

"Equally, non-Irish qualified players have delivered much value and support to the success of the provincial teams and development of Irish players over the last number of years. The intention is that this will continue, but not to the detriment of the progress of Irish-qualified players in key positions.

"The refinements continue to allow the provinces to sign overseas players who will not alone play for the province but critically allow young Irish players to learn from these players and put this knowledge into practice by taking over the position once that player's contract is completed."

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