IRFU cool on Lote Tuqiri contract
Kearney brothers no certainty for Leinster line-up against rivals Northampton Saints
Leinster coach Matt O’Connor: “A lot of blokes have played very, very well for us through this international period.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Lote Tuqiri’s three-month contract ended yesterday and indications are that the IRFU do not want to keep the former Wallaby winger on the payroll.
“It’s still up in the air,” said Leinster coach Matt O’Connor. “Hopefully (he won’t leave). You’ll see him somewhere. It’s just whether it’s the RDS or not. We are going to push it as quick as we can.”
Despite this, playing for Ireland in November may have hindered Dave Kearney’s chances of starting against the Northampton Saints in five days’ time.
Following the convincing 36-19 victory at the RDS on Saturday night, O’Connor conceded that at least one established international will not run out at Franklin’s Gardens.
A dominant scrum and Ian Madigan’s five from six kicks at goal engineered the victory but an instant telepathy between Zane Kirchner and Luke Fitzgerald played a massive part in Leinster moving to second in the PRO12 table, four points behind Munster.
All told, it looks very difficult for O’Connor to reintegrate both Kearney brothers into Leinster’s back three.
“It’s a good problem to have. A lot of blokes have played very, very well for us through this international period. The guys who went away and represented Ireland have played some good footie. It will be a tough call,” said O’Connor.
Despite Kirchner’s excellent display, Rob Kearney is almost certain to be fullback. But considering Brian O’Driscoll’s confirmed return following concussion protocols, Kirchner may be accommodated at right wing instead of Dave Kearney.
Saturday’s repeat of the epic 2011 Heineken Cup final will be O’Driscoll’s second game in blue this season.
“All the test boys (are fit) with Fergus McFadden (hand injury) the only one who won’t be available,” said O’Connor.
Brendan Macken and Jordi Murphy also shone in the five-try blitz of Scarlets, but will make way for O’Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip.
Marty Moore and Shane Jennings departed with injuries but, again, O’Connor is not concerned: “It was precautionary.”
The Saints will certainly be without England fullback Ben Foden (knee) while doubts surround James Elliot (ankle) and James Wilson (hamstring).
New Munster winger Gerhard van den Heever injured his hand in last Friday’s 18-14 victory away to the Dragons.
The 24-year-old is not registered for the pool stages of Europe.
Penney’s real problems ahead of Sunday’s game against Perpignan in Limerick is Mike Sherry (knee) and James Coughlan (eye).
Paul O’Connell banked another 67 minutes while Keith Earls was only denied an 80 minute shift by a sin binning.
Ulster are struggling at hooker ahead of back-to-back meetings with Treviso as Rob Herring took a knock in Saturday’s 19-11 defeat of Zebre.
Connacht’s miserable season under Pat Lam has reached the stage where the Aucklander felt the need to say sorry following the 43-10 loss in Edinburgh.
“We have to apologise to the Connacht supporters because this isn’t what we’re about,” said Lam, having now overseen nine defeats in 11 matches.
They are off to Toulouse this weekend.
Meanwhile, Premier Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has confirmed that English clubs will probably not take part in the Heineken Cup next season.
Last week French clubs pulled out of the proposed rugby champions cup.