Seán O’Brien likely to miss Leinster’s crunch match with Toulon

French side ‘tough ask’ as Ma’a Nonu may join Mathieu Bastareaud in powerful midfield

Leinster  centre Ben Te’o: “I’d love to play international rugby. I’d love to be a part of that, but I’m not sure for who.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leinster centre Ben Te’o: “I’d love to play international rugby. I’d love to be a part of that, but I’m not sure for who.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 
Leinster

“We’re focusing on the inner ear thing first and foremost. With regards to the concussion thing, that’s something he’ll have to deal with once they’ve sorted out that inner ear problem,” said Leinster defence coach Kurt McQuilkin.

“But it’s the medicos area and I’ll leave that to them. I’ve got more problems worrying about [Steffon] Armitage, [Mamuka] Gorgodze, all these hoors coming up this weekend. That’s my biggest worry waking up sweating in the middle of the night.”

In a week of spin and counterspin over contracts, it may be a welcome distraction for McQuilkin as tighthead prop Mike Ross can be added to the growing list of those to sort out new deals. Ross, like centre and rugby league international Ben Te’o, is non-committal.

Right decision

“I’m still going through that process at the moment so no decisions have been made,” said Te’o. “It’s a big decision for me because I came here to play rugby a year and a bit ago and I need to make the right decision for my future.

“So weighing up a few things and should get sorted pretty soon.”

International rugby is also on his mind. The 28-year-old would be close to 30 years old if he were to remain in Ireland in order to become eligible through residency.

“I suppose you’ve got to figure out which game you want to play first and then you go from there,” he said. “I know I’ve got a lot of options but I’ve just got to do what I think is going to be right for my career.”

So rugby league is still part of those options?

“I’m not discounting it. I’d love to play international rugby. I’d love to be a part of that. I’m not sure for who. But I’d love to play it,” he said.

Te’o, like the rest of the Leinster squad, don’t know what to expect from Toulon in terms of the starting 15. The French side appear to have kept about 12 core players for their last two matches, where they scored 12 tries and won by large margins, thrashing Agen 53-23 last weekend.

For the last two games the French side changed a lock, a wing and a centre, where Ma’a Nonu came in for his first run. Nonu started alongside France international Mathieu Bastareaud, making a hugely powerful combination in the midfield as the duo weighed as much as the team’s two props, a combined 233kg (514 pounds). But the team’s possible permutations for Leinster’s visit are extravagant and varied.

Phenomenal skills

“You’ve got to take them for what they are: an individual group of very talented players, and it’s up to their management team to gel them together as a unit.

“They all possess pretty phenomenal skills. They’ve all played international football or the guts of them have. It’s a case of showing their threats, seeing what they’re good at and looking at where we might be able to get a few yards out of them also.”

McQuilkin was brought up in New Zealand before stints playing with Lansdowne and Leinster in the 1990s. He saw Nonu break through as a player before going on to earn 103 All Black caps. However, their careers did not overlap.

McQuilkin knows the challenge ahead for Leinster. It could fall to Luke Fitzgerald, if fit, and Te’o to stop him and Bastareaud.

“I definitely saw him coming through as a young guy through the system,” said McQuilkin. “He really burst onto the scene as a winger for the Hurricanes in that Umaga era.

“He’s an outstanding footballer, really threatening and taking it to your face and to the line with a good set of skills around him. He’ll be a handful for us on the weekend.”

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