Tomás O’Leary has signed for French Top 14 side Perpignan on a two-year contract, starting next season.
Speculation has been building for months that O’Leary was being chased by three French sides and it has emerged over the last 24 hours that Perpignan have successfully fought off the two Paris clubs; Stade Français and Racing Metro, for his signature. The Cork native joins Lifemi Mafi in opting for the French side who, once upon a time, had second row Mick O’Driscoll on their books for two seasons.
Perpignan eased their relegation worries last night by beating fellow strugglers Biarritz 25-6 to move up to 10th in the table. It is a good move for O’Leary who has suffered with a series of near devastating injuries ever since Ireland’s 2009 Grand Slam season. First he suffered an horrific leg break that ruined his Lions dream and then a persistent back problem, whilst a subsequent eye injury cost him a season and his place on both the Munster and Ireland teams. He was also dropped from the Ireland (2011) World Cup squad at the last moment – to be replaced by Conor Murray.
Since then, O’Leary’s stock has taken a tumble as Murray established ahead of him in the pecking order with Munster and Leinster’s Eoin Reddan his back-up at international level. O’Leary is now regarded as third choice scrum-half at international level. O’Leary’s, having signed a two year contract with his new club, retains the choice of returning to Ireland with a season still to go until the 2015 World Cup should he wish to mount a challenge for a place in that squad.
O’Leary’s transfer could mean a contract extension at Munster for Peter Stringer, who is currently on loan at Saracens. With Murray and Duncan Williams (recently signing a two year deal); Stringer might now be the beneficiary of any opening for a third scrum-half.