Former Munster and Ireland centre James Downey has been left perplexed by the decision of the IRFU to not offer a new centralised contract to Donnacha Ryan.

Ryan looks set to leave Munster after 13 years of service and join French side Racing 92.

Munster have offered the second row a two-year deal but head coach Rassie Erasmus said the province were unable to come close to the figure that Racing have on the table without help from HQ.

Ryan’s age is believed to be a factor in the IRFU’s decision to not offer a new deal, however they recently gave Jamie Heaslip a new contract, despite him being four days younger than Ryan. Both men turn 34 in December.

Speaking on the RTÉ Rugby Podcast, Downey was left scratching his head as to why the IRFU would allow Ryan to leave, and believes that both Munster and Ireland will be hurt by the decision.

“It’s very bizarre, I’d love to see Donnacha stay,” he said "He’s one of those players that just puts everything in, when he’s out on the field he leaves nothing to chance and he leaves everything out there.

"I’d have him in the engine room every time. He’s one of those players you rely on and when he’s not there you miss him.

"To let him go, which is really what it is, it’s a sad end for him because he’s been there so long.

"Obviously he’s going to do great in France."

The news comes as a part of a double blow for Munster who will lose another second row in another Dave Foley, who is to join Pau in the summer.

Downey also questioned the timing of the news, coming as it does two weeks after Joe Schmidt named Ryan as his first-choice lock in Ireland’s Six Nations victory over England.

"I wish I had the answers to it. I’m sure he’s scratching his head a bit too going ‘well here I am, this is the best bargaining position I can be in, what else can I do? I’m number one choice.’”

"It’s a strange one, it really is, for someone who’s put so much into one province and one team."

Listen to live and exclusive coverage of the Champions Cup quarter-final between Munster and Toulouse at Thomond Park  live on RTÉ Radio 1’s Saturday Sport programme (kick-off 5.45pm)