LEINSTER’S QUINN ROUX and John Cooney will join Connacht on loan from Leinster next season.
South African lock Roux has agreed to an initial deal that extends until the 31st of December, 2014, while scrum-half Cooney will be at Connacht for the duration of the 2014/15 season.
24-year-old Cooney will finish his shoulder rehabilitation with Leinster this summer before moving west, although Roux will be present for the start of pre-season training with Pat Lam next month.
The second row is seen as a replacement for the recently retired Craig Clarke, while Cooney will offer Connacht another scrum-half option alongside Kieran Marmion, Ian Porter and academy player Caolin Blade.
The IRFU have been centrally involved in brokering the deal between the two provinces, perhaps showing signs that what their new Performance Director, David Nucifora, termed the “the movement of players between provinces” will become more prevalent.
At his official introduction to the media in April, the Australian – who officially began working for the IRFU on the 1st of June – stated:
“I don’t think that players sitting on the sideline in tracksuits benefits anyone. That’s an important part of development. Also, players want to play. We’ll be working on a system where we don’t want players warehoused in one particular spot.”
Emerging Ireland cap Cooney has made just eight starts for Leinster over the past three seasons, while 120kg lock Roux has managed 14 starts since joining the province in 2012. The arrival of Kane Douglas next season would have pushed the 23-year-old further down the pecking order in the second row.
“This is brilliant news for everyone involved,” said Connacht coach Lam. “We’re delighted to get the loan deal over the line and again, I’d like to thank the IRFU and Leinster Rugby, especially Matt O’Connor and Mick Dawson, for their support.”
Meanwhile, IRFU CEO Philip Browne added that Irish rugby’s governing body can see the positives in moves such as those Roux and Cooney are set to make.
The IRFU are delighted that this loan arrangement has been agreed as it can only be a good thing in terms of player development and should provide an opportunity for more game time for both John and Quinn,” said Browne.
“The IRFU are proud to support four strong and developing provinces and believe that the continued development of players within the Irish rugby family will benefit players, provincial and international rugby in the long-term.”
Flanker Conor Gilsenan spent three months on loan at Connacht from Leinster this season, before departing for London Irish in the Premiership on a permanent deal.