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'It's a great story for those late developers who don't come through the academy'

After impressing on trial during the summer, Rowan Osborne made his Leinster debut on Friday night.

IN MANY WAYS, it was a night of firsts at the RDS on Friday night. A first Leinster try and hat-trick for hooker Rónan Kelleher, a first home try in blue for Joe Tomane, home debuts off the bench for Michael Milne and Harry Byrne, and to cap it off both academy players crossed to complete the rout of Ospreys.

But perhaps the standout story from Leinster’s eight-try evisceration of the Welsh visitors was the second-half introduction of Rowan Osborne for his senior debut in place of Jamison Gibson-Park.

rowan-osborne Osborne in action against Ospreys. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

22-year-old Osborne, currently studying engineering in Trinity College, was invited to train with Leo Cullen’s squad during pre-season to boost numbers with so many of Leinster’s front-liners away on Ireland duty. 

The scrum-half, who was coached in school at Clongowes Wood by Noel McNamara and also came highly recommended by Trinity coach Tony Smeeth, impressed Cullen and Stuart Lancaster during pre-season, and was particularly sharp in a 40-minute cameo against Coventry at Donnybrook in early August.

While Osborne wasn’t involved in the round one win at Benetton, he earned his place on the bench on Friday night and with 56 minutes on the clock, the Dublin University nine — who has starred in the AIL in recent seasons — was introduced for his senior debut.

With Hugh O’Sullivan and Patrick Patterson also providing options behind Gibson-Park in the scrum-half department, it is a testament to Osborne’s work-ethic and tenacity to seize the opportunity that he has managed to climb the ladder so quickly.

Featuring in the Celtic Cup for Leinster ‘A’ under McNamara, Osborne, who has previously represented Ireland at U18 schools level, has been able to impress coaches with his trademark sniping runs, sharp delivery and excellent running game.

“Rowan is probably one of the best stories of all,” Leo Cullen said post-match. “Between Noel McNamara, who coached Rowan in school, and Tony Smeeth, they recommended him as someone we should maybe look at.

“It’s a great story for some of those late developers who don’t come through the academy cycle. Rowan came in and had a short window during pre-season and he just goes about his business. He has been really good for the ‘A’ team in the Celtic Cup.”

Asked whether Leinster will now look to bring Osborne in on a contract, Cullen added: “We’ll see what happens. He has gone well so we’ll potentially do something.”

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ronan-kelleher-celebrates-scoring-his-second-try-with-peter-dooley Leinster scored eight tries on Friday night. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Overall, it was an emphatic and clinical display from a young Leinster side as they made it back-to-back bonus-point wins at the start of the Pro14 season to sit pretty at the top of Conference A alongside the Cheetahs.

Kelleher was the headline act with a man-of-the-match performance and a memorable hat-trick, while Fergus McFadden, Tomane, Max Deegan, Byrne and Milne also crossed in front of 11,259 at the RDS.

“Everyone was a bit frustrated after last week, particularly the players,” Cullen continued.

“It was a great win away in terms of a result but the performance was a bit off, it’s fair to say. The guys worked hard in the short period of time they had this week and it was much, much, much better. 

“It was much better across the board. There was an urgency to our actions and you could see the guys, for the most part, defending well, coming up off the line and making some good impact tackles as well.

“You probably got the sense we were stuck in third gear last week but it was much better today.”

Leinster conclude this initial three-game block with another home game against Edinburgh at the RDS on Friday night. 

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Ryan Bailey

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