THERE IS NO BETTER way of unleashing the frustrations of a poor run of international form on your league foes.
The bulk of Leinster and Ulster’s Irish stars return to action, against each other, this Saturday and a place at the top of the Pro12 awaits.
Leinster skills coach Richie Murphy confirmed this afternoon that players such as Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney, Mike Ross, Sean O’Brien and Cian Healy will be in Joe Schmidt’s selection pot tomorrow.
“They’re all back fit and ready for selection,” he told Dublin’s 98fm. “We’ve just come off from training and it went well.
“All those Irish internationals are available for selection.”
With Gordon D’Arcy and Isaac Boss also hoping to feature the only Irish internationals that will miss out on Ulster’s RDS welcoming party are Brian O’Driscoll [suspended] and Luke Fitzgerald [knee injury].
Speaking about Fitzgerald, Murphy said, “It’s an awful pity that he is going to miss the end of the season but it’s great to have him signed up for the next two years.”
Jamie leaves, Leo stays
With Isa Nacewa and Andrew Conway leaving in the summer, the Leinster coach defended his side’s decision to let tighthead prop Jamie Hagan set off for the Aviva Premiership.
“Jamie has done well for us when he has been here,” he said. “He feels that he needs to get more game-time and, obviously, a move to London Irish will help that process for him.” Murphy added:
Things go in cycles. A lot of lads are coming to the end of two-year contracts; some of those lads have decided to move on.
“New lads are coming through, we have the likes of Marty Moore coming up. He will slot in where Jamie has left and we also have Tadhg Furlong.”
One player Leinster were eager to keep on for at least another year is lock and club captain Leo Cullen.
Nice working with you: Hagan and Cullen tackle Duncan Williams. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)
“He’s a great guy to have in the squad,” said Murphy, “not only for his playing but for his leadership off the field. When you get to Leo’s age – he will be 36 next year – so we need to manage him so he can add to the environment.”
He has been a massive part of the team for so many years. With guys going out of the squad, people will look to the likes of him, Shane Jennings, and some of the younger guys like Sean O’Brien, to lead.
“He’s not an out front ‘follow me’ type of a leader. He’s the sort of guy that leads in the background and keeps everyone to the high standards expected at Leinster.”