By now some Leinster fans have started to panic. No signing in the backs for next season. 2 NIQ spaces left now that Roux has gone west but not a rumble since there were vague rumours about a young lad called Michael Collins a few months ago.
The problem: Replacing an icon in Irish and World rugby.
The other problem: No players of high quality available due to the world cup next year.
The other other problem: French and Japanese money will hoover up any spare talent in this limited market.
Sign a decent player from the southern hemisphere who is below the radar of international teams?
Problem here is again the small market, and the need to sign someone better than what we have, means that is a very small stock of players weare looking at.
Traditionally New Zealand would be the place to look as Australia has no competition between super rugby and the AIL club rugby equivalent (although they are starting one next month http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Rugby_Championship) and South Africa has been more of a hunting ground for forwards.
Looking at what has already been mined from this small pool, Bundee Aki would appear to be the pick of what is available…… and he has signed for Connacht, perhaps to play 12 beside Robbie Henshaw. The man who is at the head of the Bod replacement queue for Ireland. At least until Payne qualifies in October.
Mils Muliaina of course is the big signing out west. Perhaps not exactly what we are looking for in Leinster at this point, but would be well capable of playing to a high standard at 15 or even 13.
Elsewhere we have Louis Ludik for Ulster, a Shark who has come via 2nd division Agen in France and Tyler Bleyendaal for Munster, a 10/12 from Canterbury. Again neither one is really what we are after.
Andrew Smith is being touted as a bit of a bosher of a 13 for Munster on a one year contract. However I would consider him as a decent enough stopgap for them (or indeed us). Compare him to that other Andrew (Goodman) who played a season for us lastyear. He got some stick for not being of a high enough standard to get thrown into a HC game v Clermont in December 2012. Harsh as he was signed as a 3rd choice 10 or back up 12. Good solid player who could place kick and do all the basics to a high Pro12 standard. Smith has played about as much super rugby for the Brumbies as Goodman played NPC for the Macos. That would point to him being of a higher standard.
Such a player could fill in for us and kick the can down the road for a year while our young players improve and until the expected exodus from the south after the World Cup happens.
So. Young players. Who is there? Well…..
In addition to our internationally capped senior outside backs
We have these outside backs who are already in the senior squad and are (essentially) uncapped for Ireland
- Reid (1 cap in Argentina)
When you include the Academy and the rumoured entrants for next season you have TEN EXTRA outside backs, at least 7 of whom can play in the centre.
So. Kicking the can down the road is not such a bad thing. We are definitely light in the backs in the short term and there is a gaping Bod shaped hole there. But if we did not sign a stopgap player would it actually be the end of the world?
We have the possibility of playing D’arcy, Macken, Fitzgerald, McFadden, O’Shea or maybe even Kirchner at 13. And D’arcy, Reid, Madigan, Fitzgerald, Mcfadden, O’Shea at 12. None of these options are without their drawbacks, but mix in a few academy options for Pro12 games, stir until ready and who knows what will come out in a year’s time. 12 months ago who would have seen Noel Reid getting an international cap within a season?
When choosing an option from the southern hemisphere we have to bear development of our academy in mind.
In my opinion Leinster rugby’s stated position of looking out for the right player to fill a hole, but refusing to sign a player just for the sake of it, is probably about right.
David Nucifora and interprovincial loan deals.
Something which has bothered Irish Rugby fans over the last few years is players leaving to go to French and English clubs, sometimes in positions where other provinces are lacking.
- You cannot, and should not, force a player to go to a team when they do not wish to.
- Provincial loyalties, which are generally good and positive thing, can manifest as “negative loyalties” to other provinces.
On the first point. Personally I would be against giving a player an ultimatum that they “have to move or they will never be considered for Ireland duty”. However there is a fine line between this and “you would improve your chances of playing for Ireland with game-time at another province”. Let’s face it, if they go to England or France they will be far less likely to feature for Ireland.
This leads into the second point. Some players would rather stay in their home province and wait in line for game time, rather than move to a province with a need in their position. We can not criticise a player for this as it is what stops our top players like Heaslip and O’Brien from taking top dollar from the likes of Toulon and leaving Irish rugby altogether.
That is one thing but an unwillingness to move to another province because of a perception that you have of that province is another thing altogether. Jerry Flannery for example has said in interviews that he would “never have gone to Leinster” while he was obviously happy to go to Connacht. Sean Cronin has done very well out of coming to Leinster and he would have at one stage felt similar to Jerry.
This serves to illustrate that perhaps other provinces are not the same as a players perception of them might be whether positive or negative, and that “loan deals” might be the way to shatter those perceptions.
The recent “loan deal” from Leinster to Connacht of two very promising players, Scrum half John Cooney, for the whole of next season, and Lock Quinn Roux, until the end of the year with a possibility of an extension, may just point the way to a new dawn in this regard.
Mentally, for the players, they have not “signed” for Connacht so they have an opportunity to sample the delights of Galway without committing themselves. Obviously they will have to commit themselves on a week in week out basis from a playing perspective but not permanently.
For Leinster, their players will get crucial gametime while they still retain control of them. Roux for example could well return in January 2015 depending on our situation with injury and international call ups. For Connacht they get 2 very promising players with very few strings.
Win. Win. Win you would think…..
Some provincial fans would resent this system though and say. “Why should we develop players who will end up in another province”
Such people should really decide whether they are Irish Rugby fans or Provincial Rugby fans. Even if they decide that they support Province over Country, they would do well to remember that Irish Rugby is structured from the top down and not like England and France where the Clubs are completelyseparate entities.
Some of them would be the very people to cite the advantages of having unions in control of the game rather that private clubs. Sure there are downsides, like having to rest international players on demand, having less control over signings etc.etc. But the upsides outweigh the downsides I would have thought.
Currently Leinster seem to be churning out a lot of Tight head props. We have Martin Moore and Tadhg Furlong who look like they could play for both Leinster and Ireland for many years and behind them now are Terenure’s Craig Trenier, Blackrock’s Jeremy Loughman and Roscrea’s Oisin Heffernan.
None of these are in the Leinster academy yet, but there are rumours of the first 2 heading north to Ulster.
Is this a bad thing? Surely it is better to keep them in the overall IRFU system than ship them off to a French D2 side, Rotherham or even London Irish? They can always return to Leinster should the opportunity arise, and they would not be “lost to Irish Rugby” in the way that a talent like Niall Morris might be.
When all 4 provinces have players falling out of trees in every position there will be time enough to export some……
So, in summary, perhaps the inclusion of a “foreigner” as the performance director of Irish Rugby (rather than David Humphreys for example) may facilitate these moves with a lack of “perceived” provincial bias, perhaps some new ideas and the “neutrality” to broker possible deals.
image on facebook © http://www.inpho.ie
In the final episode of the season, the Blues Talk team take a look back at Leinster’s victory over Glasgow Warriors in the Rabodirect Pro12 Final. We discuss the performances over the season both from the team and ask who has impressed the most.
This week on Blues Talk TV we take a look back at Leinster ‘A’s victory over Leeds Carnegie in the British and Irish Cup and review the last Heineken Cup final. We take a look forward to the Rabodirect Pro12 final between Leinster and Glasgow in the RDS and say goodbye to two greats of Leinster Rugby.
In this weeks episode of Blues Talk, we take a look back at Leinster’s hard fought victory over Ulster in the Rabodirect Pro12 Semi-Final and review the other semi-final between Munster and victors Glasgow who will face Leinster in their first Pro12 Final. We take a look at Leinster ‘A’ vs Leeds Carnegie in the British and Irish Cup Final and the squad for Ireland’s summer tour to Argentina.
This week on Blues Talk we take a look back at Leinster’s win over Edinburgh in a very poor match before rounding up the rest of the news. We then preview Leinster vs Ulster in the Pro12 semi-final in the RDS
This week on Blues Talk we take a look back at Leinster’s hard fought win over Ulster in Ravenhill and discuss the rest of the weekend’s action. We take a look at the current state of the Pro12 and discuss the surprising relegation of two giants of French rugby, Perpignan and Biarritz
Audio Only on Soundcloud: