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Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
©INPHO/James Crombie O'Brien and Heaslip at in the blue of Leinster.
# Negotiations
O’Brien and Heaslip ‘need to make a decision’ – O’Connor
The Leinster back row pairing’s futures remain unresolved as the IRFU attempts to beat off the advances of Top 14 clubs.

WILDFIRE RUMOURS CONCERNING Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip dominated the early stages of this week, but Leinster coach Matt O’Connor insists that his side have not been distracted ahead of their Heineken Cup clash with Northampton.

This story has been running since early in the season and the impression is that the Australian, and the fans, would prefer to learn of a conclusion either way. However, O’Connor says that his players haven’t lost focus on their jobs, despite the constant speculation.

“Not really. It’s one of the things that goes with the professional game. There’s contract negotiations going on constantly in the environment. Some not as high profile as these, but it happens all the time. As an organisation and players, it’s something they have to deal with and it won’t be a factor.”

The week between Heineken Cup games would have been an odd one in which to announce transfers for the back row duo, but the conclusion of this mini-block of European games may mean Heaslip and O’Brien can resolve their futures.

O’Connor claims that he remains in the dark as to the Ireland internationals’ intentions.

It’s hard to say. As I’ve said all along, they’ve got a decision to make. We can only present the best case for them to stay at Leinster, being in Ireland and all the things that go with that. At the end of the day, they need to make a decision on where they want to play their rugby.”

Leinster prop Mike Ross is a man who greatly benefited from leaving Ireland, but his circumstances were hugely different to those of O’Brien or Heaslip. Struggling at Munster, the tighthead prop moved to Harlequins, where he enjoyed three strong seasons before returning to Ireland to join Leinster.

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For Ross, moving abroad was a positive experience but he highlights that this is not the same situation.

I suppose it depends where you are in your career. When I went away, I didn’t have much experience. I played a lot of games over with Harlequins and it stood to me well going forward. For guys who haven’t picked up a professional contract here, it can be a great springboard.

“Look at Robin Copeland who’s just signed for Munster. Cardiff gave him an opportunity and he took it with both hands.”

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