Sean O’Brien in frame to replace Denis Leamy on Leinster staff

Leamy looks set to move back to native Munster as defence coach under Rowntree

Denis Leamy's impending move to Munster as their new defence coach, following confirmation that Mike Prendergast is also returning to his native province as their new backs coach, creates a void on the Leinster coaching ticket, and among those in consideration by the province is Seán O'Brien.

Leinster have identified O’Brien as one of the potential replacements for Leamy as the province’s contact skills coach in the wake of his decision to relocate to Munster.

O’Brien recently confirmed his intention to retire from playing at the end of this season, his second with London Irish, and has also been in discussions with the Premiership club about remaining there in a coaching capacity. But if it comes to pass the lure of returning to Leinster to make his first step on the coaching ladder would surely prove hard to resist.

O’Brien, aka the Tullow Tank, enjoyed a celebrated career with his native province, playing for them 126 times and helping them to win four Heineken Champions Cups. He was named ERC European Player of the Year for the 2010-11 season and in addition to winning 56 caps for Ireland over a 10-year period, when playing a huge role in the 2015 Six Nations title success, toured twice with the British & Irish Lions in 2013 and 2017.

The musical chairs which will see Leamy and Prendergast return to Munster, and potentially O’Brien to Leinster, would be popularly received by the supporters of both provinces.

Leamy played 145 times for Munster, and 57 times for Ireland, and was a two-time Heineken Champions Cup winner before being forced to retire in 2012 at the age of 30 due to a hip injury. He was also capped 57 times by Ireland, played in two World Cups, was twice a Triple Crown winner and was a member of the 2009 Grand Slam winning side.

After working with Rockwell College and with Garryowen in the AIL, where his reputation as a coach grew, and also with Munster's underage teams, Leamy joined Leinster as an elite player development officer in October 2019 before being appointed as contact skills coach to the senior team in October 2021 in succession to Hugh Hogan.

Leinster players speak highly of Leamy's work ethic and technical expertise, and the Leinster hierarchy are unhappy to lose him, but understandably the lure of a return to Munster with greater responsibility as their defence coach under Graham Rowntree next season has proved hard to resist. He will replace JP Fereira, who is accompanying Johann van Graan to Bath.

Prendergast will join Munster as attack coach on a three-year contract ahead of the 2022/'23 season, beginning his new role in succession to Stephen Larkham in July. He thus ends an increasingly eye-catching nine-season sojourn in the Top 14 with Oyannax, Grenoble, Stace Francais and latterly their Parisian neighbours Racing 92, where he has held the position of attack and backs coach with Racing 92 since 2019.

Uprooting his wife and three kids after nearly a decade in France is a big decision but no doubt he had to wonder when an opportunity to become the Munster attack coach might ever come his way again.

Smart and highly rated, not least by Ronan O’Gara, Prendergast had another year remaining on his contract with Racing but it is understood the Parisian club have acceded to his desire to work with his native province without seeking compensation.

On completing his professional playing career in 2009 the former Munster scrumhalf continued playing with his club Young Munster while before taking his first steps on the coaching front with roles as Head Coach and Director of Rugby roles with the Limerick side.

At Munster, he previously worked closely with academy manager Ian Costello and team manager Niall O'Donovan when overseeing the backline for the Munster As that enjoyed British and Irish Cup success in 2012.

With Rowntree moving from forwards coach to head coach next season, The Irish Times also understands that Andy Kyriacou may be promoted from his role working with the academy to assist Rowntree in working with the Munster forwards next season.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times