Penney must replace former stalwarts from within Munster squad


ROUND-UP:MUNSTER WILL not be replacing David Wallace and Denis Leamy, both contracted for next season, with international players of equal stature as their foreign quota has already been filled.

The veteran Munster and Ireland backrowers, with 129 caps between them, are the latest Munster forwards forced into retirement due to injury, following Jerry Flannery, Mick O’Driscoll and John Hayes earlier this season.

However, incoming coach Rob Penney must promote from within the current squad as there are already four foreign players under contract.

These are South African props BJ Botha and Wian du Preez, Doug Howlett recently re-signed, while Casey Lualala is joining from the Cardiff Blues.

Former Belvedere College centre James Downey has also signed from Northampton, while former Ulster flanker Sean Dougal joins from Rotherham.

There is space for a foreign player without international experience, who can be naturalised via residency, as Peter Borlase is returning to New Zealand.

“There is a gap we’ll look at but we have four non-Irish eligible players under contract and that is the limit,” said Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald.

“We have one vacancy possibly for project players, which we can look at now we know the medical situation of Denis and David.

“But really we can’t replace them under the current regulations.”

Peter O’Mahony has already replaced Leamy in the Munster and Ireland squad, while the province’s A team backrow of Billy Holland, Dave O’Callaghan and Paddy Butler were vital in capturing the British and Irish Cup.

A backs coach to replace Jason Holland and new manager to replace Shaun Payne are due to be announced in the next fortnight, with Penney set to have an input.

In contrast, Leinster have two foreign slots they intend to fill in the coming weeks, following the imminent return of Brad Thorn to Japan and Mat Berquist to Biarritz.

Leinster would like to extend Thorn’s three-month contract but that doesn’t seem possible as the All Black is due back at Fukuoka Sannix Blues so they are searching the globe for a player of similar international status.

“It could be possible that Brad might be back at a later stage but he’s contracted in Japan so we’ll be saying goodbye to him after this game on Sunday,” said Leinster assistant coach Richie Murphy.

“He’s been a great influence on the squad – fitted in really well.”

So no chance of Thorn returning in August? “At this moment, no. There is stuff going on in the background regarding that position. There is a lot of work going into finding that overseas player. Tighthead lock is one of our priorities.”

Irish-qualified lock Tom Denton (24) is already due to arrive from Leeds Carnegie.

With Berquist’s departure, and despite the progress of Ian Madigan this season, there is still the possibility of recruiting a foreign player “in and around the 10, 12 area” but Murphy said Leinster do not intend to sign cover for the injured and out of contract Luke Fitzgerald due to the number of home-grown wingers on the roster.

Isaac Boss remains the major injury concern ahead of the Ospreys’ visit to the RDS for Sunday’s RaboDirect Pro 12 final. Boss was pulled out of the warm-up on Saturday at Twickenham with a recurring quad injury, and replaced by former Gonzaga College scrumhalf, John Cooney.

Along with Fitzgerald (neck), Rhys Ruddock (hip) and Eoin O’Malley (cruciate) recently underwent surgery.