Ruaidhri O'Connor reveals to Off The Ball that the Munster winger will almost certainly complete his move to Saracens soon
Ruaidhri O'Connor, who broke the news that Keith Earls was close to a move away from Munster, spoke to us on Off The Ball tonight about the player's future and whether or not there was any chance that he would be staying in Ireland.
Speaking to Joe, he revealed that the deal was more or less a fait accompli and that there seems to be nothing the IRFU can do to reverse his decision.
"Until it's actually released from either of the clubs or the provinces or the IRFU, there's always a chance that minds can be changed and that players can have an about turn. But as far as I know, to the best of my knowledge, it's very close to being a done deal that Keith Earls has made up his mind that he wants to play for Saracens".
The nature of the move has come as a bit of a surprise to all concerned, and O'Connor told Joe that many had been caught off guard by Earls' desire to leave.
"I think everyone expected Keith Earls to stay. If you had put a list in front of people of players who were up this year, you would have had him down as a banker".
O'Connor's original report mentioned that, among the many things Earls had to consider in the deal, were a number of family issues, something which tends to be left aside when discussing the deals that players are making.
"Sometimes we forget that when we talk about these players and the moves that they make, in all sports, there are always things at play, there are always things behind the scenes. He's got a young family, and there are reasons that are not public [...] that are behind this".
That element has made negotiations a bit more difficult for both parties, but it can sometimes be forgotten that the athletes involved are people too.
"These are not just names on a spreadsheet that you can move around," said O'Connor. "These are not just players that you can give an offer to of a few bob and hope that they stay. Some of them leave for other reasons, and sometimes that gets lost in the black and white nature of what we do and when we talk about contracts".
With a number of players in the middle of tough negotiations with the IRFU, Joe asked about the deal that was on the table for Earls and what Saracens would be offering instead.
"I wouldn't say it [the IRFU deal] was exceptional," said O'Connor. "All the IRFU players who are up for renewal now [...] would be on a very performance-based and appearance-based deal, that goes for players at the top of the tree down to the bottom".
"It's a very small market, there are not that many really good players out there, and Keith Earls would be in the top end; an experienced international with massive European experience, so he's a valuable commodity on the market [...] if a big club comes in for a player of his stature, they're going to be able to better whatever the IRFU are offering".
O'Connor added that there was no doubt that Earls would make the Saracens team, and was a huge loss for Munster, saying "a fit and in form Earls gets into the starting side of most teams in Europe".
"He's going to add to that [Saracens] squad, the wingers that they have, he comes into the top end of that category".