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Dublin: 9°C Friday 23 October 2020

'Agents are realising, actually Irish players are a pretty valuable commodity'

After Conán O’Donnell’s Super Rugby debut, Murray Kinsella and Andy Dunne wondered which other Irish players would thrive down south.

WITH FORMER CONNACHT prop Conán O’Donnell moving to Japan and second row Jerry Sexton signing for the Southern Kings in South Africa in recent times, there are a number of exciting opportunities opening up for Irish players around the world.

A week after signing a short-term deal with the Sunwolves, Sligo native O’Donnell came off the bench for the final stages of their Super Rugby defeat to the Brumbies last weekend, while Sexton — Johnny’s younger brother — will play Pro14 rugby next season.

Conan O'Donnell O'Donnell enjoyed a fine Super Rugby debut last weekend. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

O’Donnell joins former Blackrock College man Oli Jager, currently playing for the Crusaders, in Super Rugby as he becomes the latest Irish player to earn an exciting chance to develop his career abroad.

Speaking on The42 Rugby Weekly, Murray Kinsella and Andy Dunne discussed why Irish players are becoming increasingly attractive options for foreign clubs.

“It’s cool to see O’Donnell playing and seeing maybe the game open up a bit that way,” Kinsella said. “We were just talking Jerry Sexton, Johnny’s younger brother. He’s going over to the Southern Kings next season, and that’s obviously Pro14 rugby, but the first Irish guy I can think of signing for a South African team, certainly on professional terms.

“It seems to be opening up a little bit more and potentially people are seeing these opportunities and agents are probably realising, actually Irish players are a pretty valuable commodity. For want of a better word, ‘I can sell them elsewhere and get them contracts elsewhere.’

You look at a guy like Sexton, who has worked really hard to get an opportunity like this in the top tier of Pro14, but he’ll go over there and he can call lineouts, he’s obviously got really good rugby intellect. He’s like his brother, he’s obsessed with the game, watches everything.

“He’ll probably add a lot in that sense to the Southern Kings and I interviewed him and he said he was shocked they wanted him because of the number of second rows they produce. But he can probably offer something different, which is that rugby IG and in Irish rugby we have a lot of that now and we have a lot of attributes that are valuable elsewhere.

“I actually think it’s great to see, I think this is the way it’s going to go anyway, the globalisation of it and hopefully it grows and grows and you see more guys getting opportunities.”


Former Connacht out-half Dunne agreed.

“There is a bottleneck in Irish rugby,” he said. “There are only 120 guys contracted and there are way more than 120 kids a year who have serious aspirations and are very close to the standard every single year but where do they all go? So it’s great they don’t lose out.”

With O’Donnell hoping to gain more valuable experience and exposure during the second half of the Super Rugby season with the Sunwolves, Kinsella and Dunne then considered which other Irish players would thrive in the southern hemisphere competition.

“Jordan Larmour is one that strikes me straight away because they just don’t spend as much time in defence don’t there, and his footwork, he doesn’t really get a chance in games up here where defence is so good,” Kinsella continued.

Furlong would absolutely dominate. Kiwi props are renowned for that but I think he’s a level above most of those Kiwi props. There was an interesting article, I think it was on Stuff online, talking about how they’re worried about their props falling behind the Irish props around things like work-rate and set-piece. I think Furlong’s skill level is actually better than those guys. He’d be absolutely brilliant.

“Simon Zebo would be another one who would be absolutely box-office down there, celebrations plus amazing attacking skill. I was looking back at the Leinster-Munster semi-final last year, that try he created for Keith Earls down the left. It’s just that glide across, draw in an edge defender and I think his skills would be even more valuable because defensively they just don’t spend as much time. Zebo would probably tear it up.”

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Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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