Friday 28 October 2016

Cullen backs Luke Fitzgerald and Gordon D'Arcy

Leinster forwards coach sees 3-5 years as fairest for residency rule

Leo Cullen
Leo Cullen

Leinster forwards coach Leo Cullen was the man front and centre to reveal how Luke Fitzgerald has fallen foul of injury yet again.

The Ireland wing had his shoulder operated on during the weekend to clear up damage done to the labrum.

"I'll find out more as the week goes on to see exactly how long it's going to be or where that leaves him," he said.

It must be noted Cullen did not see the rehabilitation period as a threat to Fitzgerald's World Cup dream.

However, it is believed it could be as long as 12 weeks, putting him one month behind the bulk of the squad that is due back to Carton House on July 1st.

Fitzgerald joins fellow Ireland internationals Rhys Ruddock (arm), Martin Moore (shoulder) and Sean Cronin (thumb), as well as second row Kane Douglas (back) on the back burner as Leinster turn the corner into a testing last two weeks in the PRO12.

There was also World Cup backing for the prospects of soon-to-be-retired centre Gordon D'Arcy ahead of an unsure time when the 35 year-old could just easily have to maintain his fitness by lining out in the PRO12 until October.

"Having someone of his experience at a World Cup, regardless of whether he plays, could be so important," he pushed.

Cullen sees D'Arcy as part of Joe Schmidt's contingency plan given Luke Marshall's vulnerability, how Stuart Olding has been ruled out of the World Cup and Ian Madigan's limited international experience.

"The centre partnership that played in the Six Nations has gone pretty well from what I have seen.

"When you get to a World Cup, though, having that experience could be pretty valuable."

There was also the chance for Cullen to explain why Leinster have tempted Isa Nacewa out of retirement after two years, while conceding it is "a bit of a risk.".

"Isa will bring a different dynamic," he answered.


"You think of that World Cup period where you are missing 20 players potentially. That's the kind of number we are almost budgeting for.

"There is going to be a bit of an absence of leadership and experience even with the likes of Gordon D'Arcy (in October) and Shane Jennings retiring as well."

Cullen came armed with a half-decent example of another to leave the profession for two years.

"You see someone like Juan Smith.

"You have seen the impact he's had with Toulon over the past two years, phenomenal.

"If Isa could have a similar influence to that it would be acceptable return," he grinned.

In terms of the global game, Brett Gosper, the Chief Executive of World Rugby, has warned of a deeper examination into the merits, or otherwise, of extending the three-year residency rule that has allowed Leinster's Richardt Strauss and Ulster's Jared Payne to qualify for Ireland.

"It's a real difficult one. Somewhere between three and five would probably be fair," considered Cullen.

"Look at us here, Richardt has gone through that qualification and he is really passionate about playing for Ireland.

"I would have no doubts about that.

"I can't speak for everyone who has qualified but the rules are there.

"It's a chance for someone like Richardt who has had the chance to integrate into the culture of Leinster.

"I know watching him how much it means to him to play for Ireland. He's very proud of that fact."

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