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Connacht head coach Friend urges Leinster's fringe players to try other provinces

The Australian believes it would benefit everyone if those down Leo Cullen’s pecking order got game time elsewhere.

Friend is targeting players for next season.
Friend is targeting players for next season.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

CONNACHT HEAD COACH Andy Friend urged some of Leinster’s fringe players to give it a go with the other Irish provinces in order to increase their first-team game time.

According to the Australian, Connacht are in discussion with a number of players about joining the province next season, and he thinks players who are third or fourth choice with Leo Cullen’s side would benefit from a move elsewhere on the island.

Friend declined the opportunity to name any of his targets for next season and would not be drawn on links surrounding Leinster’s Hawaiian born tighthead Roman Salanoa with a move west, but says he is keen to speak to new faces.

“We’ve got a chunk of blokes we’re talking to and looking at the moment,” said Friend. “We need to fill certain positions and we’re looking for players in certain positions but it’s too early to let you know who they are.

“I honestly believe Leinster are entitled to take their top, top players. But if there are players who are sitting fourth and fifth there and want game time, it would make sense to share that around.

“There’d be certain players there, who are sitting third and fourth or fourth and fifth in Leinster I think would look good in different jerseys. Whether that’s an Ulster jersey, a Munster or Connacht jersey [it] would be good. Now it’s up to them whether they want to leave or not. But there are other players out there, not just Leinster players too.”

roman-salanoa Leinster's Roman Salanoa has recently been linked with Connacht. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Friend will lead his side to the south of France this weekend for what is essentially a dead rubber Champions Cup game against Montpellier. Neither side can qualify from the pool, but Friend insists he will pick a very strong side for the outing, although Ultan Dillane (hip) and Finlay Bealham (quad) are doubts through injury.

In recent weeks, Connacht have been unable to play full training games due to injury, illness and player unavailability, but with the likes of Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell, Conor Kenny, Conor Fitzgerald and Peter Robb all back and available this week, the intensity of their training has picked up too.

“That training session we just had out there today was the first time we were able to have enough numbers,” he added. 

“We’ve been able to get 13 on 15, or 12 on 15, and sometimes we’ve had 15 on 15. But if you’ve got another 15 sitting behind it and you can give one 15 a break and keep the intensity up it’s massive.

“I did hear Leinster saying they played 44 players in the inter-pros, which means you’ve got three squads basically. And if you’ve got that all the time, and that quality of player, it’s going to be quality sessions.

I have no doubt Leinster maximise their ability. You don’t just get born in Dublin or go to a Dublin school and become a good footballer, you’ve got to work hard.

“I applaud their academy system and the way Leo and Stuart and all their coaches have got them playing brilliant football. That can’t be sneezed at; there’s something special going on there.

“Certainly having quality players and numbers of players, that does make your job easier. But you still have to be good at what you do so, they’re obviously doing a great job there. I actually really enjoy watching them play they’re playing a good brand of rugby.”

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Declan Rooney

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