Ben Te’o likely to leave Leinster in the summer
Province struggling to keep New Zealander as offers from English, French clubs roll in
Ben Te’o is tackled by Ulster’s Paddy Jackson in a Pro12 game last month: the 28-year-old’s departure from Leinster would be offset by Robbie Henshaw’s switch from Connacht and the continued rise of Garry Ringrose. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Ben Te’o looks certain to be leaving Leinster this summer. The province are struggling to keep the powerful Rugby League convert with offers from English and French clubs potentially doubling his currents wages.
Te’o does not qualify to play for Ireland, under the three-year residency rule, until November 2017 but he would be eligible for England the moment he signs for a Premiership club.
The Samoan Rugby League international is in possession of a British passport through his mother’s family.
There is also an interest in luring Te’o back to Australia where Michael Cheika is reportedly keen to include him in the New South Wales Waratahs squad and possibly cap him for the Wallabies.
The 28-year-old’s departure would be offset by Robbie Henshaw’s switch from Connacht and the continued rise of Garry Ringrose.
Still, it would be another example of how Irish rugby cannot compete with the improved financial muscle of English and French rugby. Te’o, who has made impressive strides as an outside centre since joining Leinster from the South Sydney Rabbitohs after winning the 2014 NRL Grand Final, along with Sam Burgess, remains an injury concern ahead of Sunday’s Champions Cup tie away to Toulon.
In a further blow to Leo Cullen’s plans, Sean O’Brien’s ongoing problems with a concussion and a vestibular impairment (inner-ear problem), which affects his balance, leaves the Ireland flanker a major doubt for the daunting trip to Stade Mayol.
O’Brien has not played since the round one defeat, a record home European loss for the province, last month.
Luke Fitzgerald is another concern while longer-term absentees, Noel Reid and Jack Conan, have already depleted centre and backrow stocks.
Luke McGrath and Kiwi lock Hayden Triggs could come back into consideration before the weekend.
Connacht’s injury list has reached an all-time high with Pat Lam having only 23 players, just nine backs, to choose from ahead of Friday’s Challenge Cup meeting with Newcastle at the Sportsground.
Lam lost a ready made replacement for Henshaw, ruled out for six weeks with a broken hand, in Darragh Leader as the fullback suffered a similar injury in their defeat away to Cardiff last Friday. Leader’s expected period of recovery is two months.
USA outhalf AJ MacGinty has been ruled out for six weeks following a knee surgery.
Quinn Roux “sustained a ruptured ankle syndesmosis during Friday’s game,” read a Connacht statement. “The South African is awaiting surgical review today but is expected to be out of action for up to three months.”
Bundee Aki (ankle injury sustained on the Arms Park 3G pitch) and John Muldoon (calf) are other significant players who are currently unable to train.
“It is a massive toll on the back of the long list we had already, certainly the biggest in my time, but again at the weekend, I have never experienced a game when you lose both your nines in 41 minutes,” said Lam after Kieran Marmion (concussion) was followed off by Ian Porter (ankle), which forced winger Matt Healy to play scrumhalf.
“We are going to have to use players like [hooker] Dave Heffernan to try to cover the backrow and Matt Healy will have to cover the nine role.”