JONATHAN SEXTON could be on his way to Stade Francais, with talks taking place between the wealthy French club and representatives of the Ireland out-half regarding a move to Paris after next year's World Cup.
Stade Francais coach Michael Cheika is a huge admirer of Sexton, having brought the 25-year-old through at Leinster during his five-year, Heineken Cup-winning spell with the Irish province.
Sexton has become first-choice out-half for Ireland under Declan Kidney and is out of contract at the end of the season. Although negotiations have taken place, a deal has yet to be signed.
The IRFU are struggling to match the financial clout of French clubs, who are also understood to be in pursuit of other Ireland stars such as Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip and Tony Buckley.
Sexton helped secure a bonus point for an injury-ravaged Leinster side in Sunday's 20-13 Heineken Cup defeat away to Clermont, whose financial muscle is believed to have secured the big-name signings of Lee Byrne, Regan King, Benjamin Kayser and All Blacks prop Neemia Tialata for next season.
With widespread player movement a certainty after the World Cup (New Zealand centre Ma'a Nonu is in line for a switch to Munster), the IRFU face a tough fight to hold on to their out-of-contract players, who also include Connacht hooker Sean Cronin and Ulster winger Andrew Trimble.
The English union recently announced that they would not allow players earning a living abroad to play for the national side, as they seek to stem the flow of England internationals to wealthy French clubs.
Meanwhile, Munster are likely to discover today the potential disciplinary fall-out from Sunday's contentious Thomond Park 22-16 win against the Ospreys.
Paul O'Connell faces an automatic disciplinary hearing this week following his red card; ERC regulations point out that "the case of any player sent off shall be adjudicated upon by an independent disciplinary committee".
O'Connell, who has only recently returned to action after a lengthy injury absence, is flirting with a suspension that could force him to miss the opening game of the Six Nations against Italy.
However, as the referee already dealt with the incident, mitigating circumstances and O'Connell's relatively clean disciplinary record could lead to the ban being skimmed to anything between two and five weeks, ruling him out of one or two Heineken Cup clashes.
There may also be cases to answer for other Munster players, with Denis Leamy and Damien Varley sweating on the outcome of the citing commissioner's review of the match video.