Leinster signal intention to sign foreign outhalf for next season
Leinster's Ian Madigan is under consideration to replace Jonathan Sexton who switches to Racing Metro 92 on a two-year deal. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Leinster have confirmed that they will sign a foreign outhalf to replace Jonathan Sexton for the 2013/14 season.
The outstanding decision is whether to ordain Ian Madigan as their first choice number 10, and merely sign cover, or recruit someone of proven international calibre.
The market’s ever decreasing window could make this decision for them.
“We definitely, definitely need to bring someone else in,” said Richie Murphy yesterday, who doubles up as skills and kicking coach so would be working directly with a new arrival.
It appears that Madigan is poised to benefit the most from Sexton’s switch to Parisian club Racing Metro 92 on a two-year deal.
“I think the situation is that we have to see what’s out there and then a decision has to be made on what way we have to go,” said Murphy. “And it’s not as easy as just saying, ‘We’ll back Ian Madigan’.
“We will back Ian Madigan and he will play a lot of rugby. I think he’s played in 70 out of the last 71 games he’s been involved in (the squad) and that’s not going to change.
“It’s a case of what else is out there and that process is up and running at the moment.”
Besides Madigan, there is no obvious replacement for Sexton with Morne Steyn, the 28-year-old Springbok outhalf, expected to join Stade Francais next season.
Steyn is one of the few place-kickers with comparable statistics to Sexton.
However, Madigan’s kicking percentages, having been handed the tee ahead of Fergus McFadden and Isa Nacewa this season, have improved significantly .
“Yeah, Mads is up at 80 per cent at the moment,” said Murphy . “He didn’t kick much last year and the other thing is that we used to throw him the long ones. If you’re kicking from over 50 metres it’s always going to be tough to keep your stats high.
“Mads has worked really hard in that area in the last 18 months and we’ve seen pretty big improvements. His routine is much more solid, he also feels that if there’s a problem area he’s able to fix it on the pitch.”
Other outhalves on Leinster’s roster are Noel Reid and Cathal Marsh. Kiwi Andrew Goodman, signed primarily as inside centre cover, also has history at “first five-eighth”.
Reid, who recently featured at 12 and fullback, and Marsh – both educated at St Michael’s College – are still listed in the academy, along with Irish under-20s outhalf Steve Crosbie, who is another potential option for deeper investment.
Crosbie is taking a similar route into the professional ranks as Sexton by performing regularly for Old Belvedere in the All-Ireland League. Another 10 impressing in the club game at present is Lansdowne’s Craig Ronaldson.
Murphy was also asked about Leinsters plans to replace wingers Andrew Conway and Fionn Carr who accepted offers to join Munster and Connacht respectively this summer.
“Again, we’re going through that process at the moment. We haven’t decided if we will go outside for a winger, it also comes down to the quality that is out there. Obviously, we would like to pick up an Irish qualified guy.”
Add in several more soon to be out-of-contract players – particularly Leo Cullen, Dominic Ryan, Brian O’Driscoll and Rob Kearney – and Leinster have some very serious decisions still to make about their squad make-up for next season.
Extension Muller signs for further year
Ulster have been boosted by the news that influential captain Johann Muller has signed a one-year contract extension which will keep him at the club until the summer of 2014.
Muller, capped 24 times by South Africa, has had a major influence on the squad since his arrival three years ago.
In his debut season he helped the province reach the knock out stages of both the Magners League and Heineken Cup and the following season took them to the Heineken final where they lost to Leinster.