New owners insist Exiles 'won't become the next Toulon'
December 12, 2013
Chief executive David Fitzgerald, president Mick Crossan and Phil Cusack after the consortium of businessmen announced the takeover of London Irish © Twitter
Within minutes of announcing they had taken control of London Irish, the new owners ruled out paying over the odds to retain England wing Marland Yarde and dismissed the prospect of a Top 14-style recruitment drive.
Yarde's contract expires at the end of the season and while the club want to retain a 21-year-old who is beginning to make his name in international rugby, they insist any deal must offer value.
Interim executive chairman David Fitzgerald has revealed "substantial funds" are available following a takeover by a consortium of London-based Irish businessmen but was at pains to point out the club will operate a sustainable business and avoid the type of extravagant spending spree that has seen French club Toulon assemble a squad of international stars.
"Marland is a home-grown player and as someone who we brought through the ranks we are very keen to keep him," Fitzgerald said. "But there is a market out there and there's a point at which you say you're better off investing elsewhere.
"I don't want people to run away with the idea that we have brought in a whole load of money and we are basically going to be the next Toulon. The reality is that the French market is in a different league to everybody else. It doesn't make economic sense to start competing with those guys.
"The idea is not to treat rugby as a toy that you can invest in for fun. It's a fool's errand if you try to compete with the French."
When asked about Yarde and Australia full-back James O'Connor, both of whom can leave Irish at the end of the season, director of rugby Brian Smith hinted that strengthening the pack is the priority. The arrival of CJ van der Linde, who has been capped 75 times by South Africa, is a step in that direction with the tighthead joining as injury cover for Halani Aulika.
"We would love to get our hands on a frontline Irish international, but clearly we want to work with the unions," Smith said. "We are not trying to drag the Irish captain [Paul O'Connell] out of a central contract, but if it fits for someone who has missed the boat or who wants a life change, then we can attract that type of player."
Fitzgerald also dismissed rumours the club would move from Reading, pointing out they were contracted to stay at the Madejski Stadium until 2025-26.
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