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Heaslip: 'People have called for my contract to be ripped up in the past as well'

Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor says speculation over his future is ‘irrelevant’.

MATT O’CONNOR SAYS speculation over his future as Leinster head coach is “irrelevant” as he prepares his side for Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final meeting with Toulon in Marseille.

Jamie Heaslip Captain Jamie Heaslip has again expressed his support for O'Connor. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Last weekend’s defeat to the Dragons leaves Leinster looking extremely unlikely to secure a play-off position in the Guinness Pro12 this season, adding to the unhappiness with O’Connor in some quarters.

While many Leinster supporters remain supportive of the Australian head coach, understanding the difficulties he has faced with injuries and departures over the last two seasons, there is belief elsewhere that O’Connor’s job is increasingly on the line.

The former Leicester and Brumbies coach’s contract in Ireland runs until the end of next season, but that has not stopped mutterings of a possible early departure this summer.

“You take no notice of it, is the reality,” said O’Connor of such speculation this morning in UCD.

We spend all our time creating an environment where there are no obstacles, no excuses and we work very hard, staff and players, to make sure that we work as hard as we can to deliver a performance.

“It’s irrelevant, the noise outside the environment makes no difference to what happens inside the environment.”

Leinster captain Jamie Heaslip underlined that the squad remain fully supportive of their head coach, with the Ireland number eight also pointing out that the players themselves must take responsibility for the poor performances this season.

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“Speaking from personal experience, people have called for my contract to be ripped up in the past as well,” said Heaslip.

Matt O'Connor O'Connor remains popular with Leinster's players. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“So I would take absolutely no notice of it and Matt’s got the full support of the squad. We’ve done some great things over the last two seasons. As players, we’ve been pretty disappointed with how we’ve played in some games, especially last week.

“As a group of players, that’s not the standard we set for ourselves. But outside of that, I’m not listening.”

Meanwhile, O’Connor confirmed that Australian second row Kane Douglas is set for surgery on a back injury following a frustrating first season with Leinster. The operation means talk over Douglas potentially being involved in the World Cup later this year may be at an end.

Kane’s got a significant disc issue in his back that will require surgery,” said O’Connor. “He saw a specialist earlier this week and they’re booking in with our medical team a slot for surgery.

“I think it’s a three month-er, about three months. It’s a pretty standard procedure and fingers crossed he should be as good as gold in that timeframe.”

O’Connor said openside Shane Jennings remains on the comeback trail from concussion, although he was “still symptomatic yesterday, so he’s a little bit later than we would have liked.” The Leinster head coach did not rule Jennings out of the Toulon game.

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