Ireland and Munster second row Donnacha Ryan is set to leave his home province to join Top 14 outfit Racing 92, after the IRFU refused to offer him a new central contract.
Ryan is out of contract at the end of the campaign, having been on a central contract since the 2014/15 season.
Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus confirmed 33-year-old Ryan had lost his central contract, and the offer of a two-year provincial deal was well below what Racing could offer.
Though nothing has been confirmed as yet, Erasmus admitted the deal with the Parisians is likely to go through over the next few days.
“I’m disappointed for us but I think we have to be happy for Donnacha [Ryan] if that’s what he wants to do,” Erasmus said.
“Obviously he didn’t get a national contract again. We offered him a two-year deal but as I understand he’s got a much better offer from Racing.
“I guess in the next few days we’ll know exactly where he stands. Obviously it would be a great loss for us, he’s one of our stalwarts and really a Munster man so it will be sad.
“He’s served Munster well and I guess at his age he’s got one big contract left in him. We made the best offer we could, which was for two years.
“He didn’t get a national contract again so it was tough for us to afford him and when the likes of Racing and those guys make you offers it’s really big money which we can’t compete with.
“So it’s really sad on one hand and we’re really going to miss him but we’re happy for him.”
Unlike with Ryan, the IRFU awarded Leinster No 8 Jamie Heaslip, also 33, a new three-year central contract in January.
Tipperary-native Ryan has been with Munster since making his debut in 2004, while he has earned 47 caps for Ireland.
Any potential move to France would in all probability end his international career, however, with Ireland coach Joe Schmidt reluctant to select players from outside the four provinces.
“No, I’m definitely not annoyed,” Erasmus said of the IRFU’s decision. “I fully understand that you only have so much money. If you’re the IRFU and you have to fit players into that budget, and if Joe Schmidt and David Nucifora decide those are the best players, they are the guys that stand over the results for the national team when they’re playing.
“So if they believe other players are better than that then we must respect them signing those players, because at the end of the day they have to carry the results. You can’t beg for a national contract.”
Erasmus also responded to claims over his own future at Munster on Monday after more South African news outlets linked him with a return home recently.
“I worked and lived in South Africa as a coach for 16 years and I speak to them weekly, on a formal and informal basis, but at this stage I have a full contract which is three years and it’s just speculation,” Erasmus added.
“I’m big friends with the current coaches and management team. There’s been formal and informal chats the past few months. Some have been requests, some have been pure chats.
“I’ve got a contract with the IRFU and nothing’s changing.”