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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019
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'Some people get annoyed saying 'Leinster have x amount of players' but players want to play here'

The eastern province are already shaping their squad for next season and an announcement on the coaching staff’s future is expected soon.

John Fogarty speaking at today's press conference in UCD.
John Fogarty speaking at today's press conference in UCD.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

THERE ARE SEASON-DEFINING weeks ahead for Leinster, with a Champions Cup semi-final and a Pro12 title tilt to come, but the nature of the business means preparations have already begun for next year.

While the focus remains firmly on the business end of this campaign, one eye has turned to shaping Leo Cullen’s squad for 2017/18 and ensuring the province can be competitive on all fronts again.

Last week’s announcement of 13 contract renewals means the bulk of the business has been done with many of the current squad now tied down for at least another 12 months.

In addition to the future of those players, Jamie Heaslip and Devin Toner recently signed new central contracts and the club had confirmed the capture of Australian international Scott Fardy and Maori All Blacks winger James Lowe last month.

Fardy can operate as a flanker or second row but given Leinster’s resources in the back row, you’d imagine his arrival will be to bolster the options in the line-out with Mike McCarthy joining Narbonne and Hayden Triggs also set to leave the club

Dominic Ryan is another player who could be heading for the exit, while Zane Kirchner is definitely leaving after putting pen to paper on a deal with Newport Gwent Dragons.

James Lowe celebrates his try James Lowe (right) is joining Leinster next season. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Mike Ross’ name was another notable omission from the renewals list with the experienced prop yet to make a decision on his future.

It all means Leinster’s head of operations, Guy Easterby, is working on overdrive with an announcement on the future of Cullen and his coaching staff also expected soon.

The head coach’s two-year deal runs out this summer and he, alongside senior coach Stuart Lancaster, scrum coach John Fogarty and backs coach Girvan Dempsey, are all set to renew terms with the province.

“It’s so good to hear the players commit,” Fogarty said.

“Some people get annoyed saying ‘Leinster have x amount of players’ but players want to play here, it’s a province that’s going to be involved in big days going into the future so for the playing group to commit to Leinster is brilliant.

“The two signings we’ve made are probably the areas [we needed to strengthen] and they’ll add a lot of experience. As everyone knows the group changes at certain stages of the season and it’s important we’re competitive at those times.

“For Leinster and all of the Irish provinces a huge amount comes from the academy. It’s almost as exciting to see the young players jump up as well, the experience they’ve got from the last two seasons is huge and for us as a group to get the academy players into the system and on professional contracts is equally exciting.”

Isa Nacewa, Leo Cullen and John Fogarty Cullen, Fogarty and the coaching team are set to commit their futures for another two years. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

While official confirmation is yet to arrive on the future of Leinster’s coaching ticket, Fogarty admitted that it’s hugely important that the group — both playing and management — is a settled one as the province look to continue its development.

“It’s hugely important. There was a little bit of disruption with Kurt [McQuilkin] which was disappointing for him and us as Kurt is a great guy and can add a lot to the group.

“We’re nice and settled now and that’s the plan for us to grow into the future. It’s important, the playing group committing to this place and us too. It’s good.

“As a coaching group we’ve learned a huge amount from the last season or two and this is where we want to be, and certainly where I want to be for the foreseeable.

“But we’re certainly not getting carried away, it’s been so far, so good and we’re putting ourselves in a position where we can achieve something at the end of the season and that’s what we’re driving for.”

These are exciting times for Leinster.

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Ryan Bailey

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