Archive for July 2014

Replacing Drico or just taking the Micko.   1 comment

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.

The solution(s)?

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 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

  • D’Arcy
  • Fitzgerald
  • Kearney
  • Kearney
  • Kirchner
  • McFadden

We have these outside backs who are already in the senior squad and are (essentially) uncapped for Ireland

  • Macken
  • O’Shea
  • Reid (1 cap in Argentina)
  • Coghlan-Murray
  • Fanning

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.

  • Byrne
  • Dardis
  • Fitzpatrick
  • Kelleher
  • Brewer
  • Coghlan
  • Daly
  • Farrell
  • O’Loughlin
  • Ringrose

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.

John Grainger

Posted July 8, 2014 by bluestalktv in Ireland, Leinster, Rugby

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