The Jordie Barrett deal to Leinster opens a massive loophole in the Irish system


Leinster Rugby shocked the rugby world this week when they announced the signing of All Blacks superstar, Jordie Barrett.

It’s quite a unique deal as Barrett has signed a new contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU), committing his long-term future to the All Blacks, but has used his right to a sabbatical and will only be with Leinster for the backend of the 2024/25 season, arriving in December.

This isn’t unique to the NZRU with the likes of captain Sam Cane and World Player of the Year Ardie Savea recently doing the same for stints in Japan. Jordie’s brother Beauden has also done the same, and going back even further who remembers Dan Carter heading to Perpignan?

Richie McCaw and Ben Smith did it too but took complete breaks, opting to rest up for their sabbaticals.

But what Leinster have done is new to Irish Rugby, and it could potentially open a massive loophole that has hampered provinces in the past – depending on how you want to look at it.

We all remember Ruan Pienaar infamously being forced out of Ulster all those years ago because Ireland didn’t want him blocking the pathway of a player in his position of scrumhalf, and for the most part, it has worked out.

It allowed John Cooney to flourish at Ulster, even though Ireland largely overlooked him, and since then our stock at nine has been better than ever.

Munster have been searching for a world-class hooker since Jerry Flannery’s retirement to no avail. Former Wallabies captain Stephen Moore was blocked from joining them many years ago and of course, there was all that talk about Malcolm Marx last year – but those reports are unconfirmed.

We do know for certain that a move for Springbok Pieter-Steph du Toit to Munster was blocked, with a deal agreed between the two parties. He eventually went to Japan instead and that one still hurts Munster fans. He’s one of the very best players in the world and would have added incredible value both on and off the pitch.

There are more cases we’re probably either forgetting about or not aware of – but let’s get to the loophole…

What’s stopping Munster from signing PSDT on a six-month deal next year? What’s stopping Munster from signing Malcolm Marx on a six-month deal? What about Ardie Savea? Sam Cane? Beauden Barrett? Cheslin Kolbe?

What if instead of deals in Japan, they went to Munster, Ulster, or Connacht for six months next season?

The backend of the season is the business end. Champions Cup knockout stages, URC knockout stages. That’s when trophies are won.

With Europe’s current pool stage system, it’s very easy to get through to the last 16. With the URC you only need to finish in the top eight with the bulk of the season taking place from December onwards.

In the likely event of Leinster progressing to the knockout stages of both competitions next season, who gets dropped for those big potential quarters finals, semi-finals, and finals?

Barrett can play across the backline and he’s hardly coming over here to not play in those big games. Do Leinster drop one of Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, or Hugo Keenan, who are all centrally contracted by the IRFU?

Or maybe it’s Ciaran Frawley, who recently became a part of the Irish set-up. Or perhaps fellow international Jimmy O’Brien? Maybe it will be young Jamie Osborne who has stepped up in Ringrose’s absence and is a real star for the future. It could even end up being James Lowe.

Someone has to go to make room for Barrett in those games?

The ‘pathway’ may only be blocked for six months but it’s during the most important period of the season where trophies are won and lost.

We’re pretty sure Munster would have taken Pieter-Steph du Toit for six months this season.

Three months would have even been enough to help get them through the last 16 of the Champions Cup and help them in their pursuit to retain the URC. Just look at the difference RG Snyman made at the end of last season. Would Munster have won the URC without him?

I’m not even gonna get into him signing for Leinster, with centrally contracted James Ryan as well as Joe McCarthy already in their ranks. That’s for another day.

For the sake of the other three provinces, the IRFU needs to explain their decision behind the deal. Otherwise, that loophole remains.

Follow Me