We won’t break bank to keep Yarde, new Exiles owners warn

Frank Dalleres
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LONDON Irish’s new owners have vowed to boost their budget in an attempt to keep in-demand England wing Marland Yarde but warned they will not try to compete with the free-spending French.

Interim chairman David Fitzgerald – part of a consortium led by waste management tycoon Mick Crossan that confirmed its takeover yesterday – has indicated they will increase wage spending by 50 per cent to the Premiership’s maximum £4.26m per year.

Keeping Yarde, whose emergence on the Test scene has attracted interest from Bath, and landing marquee signings is a priority, but Fitzgerald, who has recruited South African prop CJ van der Linde, tempered his pledge to spend.

“Marland is someone we brought through the ranks and we are very keen to keep him, but there is a market out there and there’s a point at which you say you’re better off investing elsewhere,” he said.

“I don’t want people to run away with the idea that we have brought in a whole load of money and are 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 Exiles’ new hierarchy hope to ensure one third of the squad is Irish – or of Irish descent – and have been linked with Test stars Jamie Heaslip, Paul O’Connell and Sean O’Brien, whose contracts all expire next summer.

“We’d love to get our hands on a frontline Irish international, but we want to work with the unions,” said boss Brian Smith.

Fitzgerald added that the new board had no plans to move home matches from Reading football club’s Madejski Stadium, where they have a deal in place for 12 more years.