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Angry Leo hits out over move

Salanoa went back on his word to me says Leinster head coach

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Roman Salanoa of Leinster during the Guinness PRO14 match against Ulster at the RDS last December

Roman Salanoa of Leinster during the Guinness PRO14 match against Ulster at the RDS last December

SPORTSFILE

Roman Salanoa of Leinster during the Guinness PRO14 match against Ulster at the RDS last December

Leo Cullen has stoked the fires ahead of this evening's Guinness PRO14 semi-final against Munster by accusing prop Roman Salanoa of going back on his word by signing for the Reds.

The Hawai-born tighthead prop made the switch towards the end of last season in a move that caused a lot of dismay at Leinster's UCD base.

The head coach chose the eve of his side's biggest game to reveal the cause of his disapproval at Salanoa, saying he had verbally committed to staying with the eastern province.

That meant Cullen told homegrown prospect Jack Aungier he could leave. But after he had confirmed his move to Connacht, Salanoa decided he was also up for an interprovincial switch and headed to Limerick.

Although Cullen didn't mention the IRFU by name, it is understood that union performance director David Nucifora encouraged the promising American to make the switch. Salanoa qualifies to play for Ireland later this year.

With Tadhg Furlong struggling with a back strain and, along with Andrew Porter, likely to spend much of the next six months on international duty, Leinster needed cover.

Today, they announced the signing of former Munster prop Ciaran Parker on loan from Jersey.

Asked about that move, Cullen opened up on his frustration.

"A few different things," he said of the reasons behind recruiting Parker.

"We knew we were a little bit exposed off the back of last season, before we broke up.

"The Roman one was a little bit frustrating, because he gave me the impression because he told me that he was going to stay.

"So, there was another player (Jack Aungier) left as well, Vakh Abdaladze is injured, so because there are so many international games coming up we knew we needed to have some extra coverage for this period. Ciaran is Irish qualified, the big thing is the Championship in England - there's a good bit of uncertainty as to when that start date is going to be.

"We're very appreciative of Jersey for allowing this loan period that we have agreed. I don't know what the selection for Ireland is going to be, but there are six internationals, we think, in seven weeks.

"Assuming Tadhg (Furlong) and Andrew Porter are gone, it just leaves us a bit skinny with Michael Bent and Tom Clarkson here. Tom is still an academy player so I thought we needed a bit of extra cover.

"We'd been looking around probably for four months maybe, we're very appreciative for Jersey agreeing to the arrangement."

Staying

Asked to expand on the conversation with Salanoa, Cullen said: "He told me he was staying. I told him I had to deal with another player (Aungier).

"So, basically, that's how it unfolded. I basically took him at his word but he hadn't actually signed the contract.

"I don't know what sort of pressure he was under in the background, but he left us compromised. I was up front with him from day one.

"If players want to go that's completely their own business. I'm not going to tell them what's best for their careers, they can decide that for themselves.

"He knew there was an effect for someone else, an effect fo0r the players we have here and I can't say what sort of pressure he was being put under in the background.

"You'd want to ask him himself."

Salanoa is injured and won't feature tomorrow night, but Cullen's comments are bound to cause a stir with the travelling party.

The coach took a couple of big decisions in his team selection for tomorrow night, opting for Will Connors ahead of Josh van der Flier and retaining Jordan Larmour at full-back with Hugo Keenan on the right wing ahead of Rob Kearney.

Although James Ryan, Dan Leavy and Furlong missed out, he said they could be available next week if Leinster win and get to the final.

Ryan, he said, was the closest of the trio.

"On the selection piece first, I think those guys have done well," he said.

"If you look back before we broke up and the lockdown began, Will had some outstanding performances for us and similar with Hugo.

"I thought the two of them backed it up well against Ulster last week, so they deserve their chances. There's some very, very tight calls across the board, there's not much in the selections.

"Josh van der Flier is very unlucky to miss out and a couple of other guys are unlucky to miss out across the team. Some of the coaches took a session this morning with guys who aren't involved in the game and there's lots of very good players that have missed out.

"You're trying to get that balance in terms of rewarding guys who have put their hand up - in training and the previous form before we broke up. We're also trying to make assessments on the two games we've seen so far.

"In terms of the guys (Ryan, Leavy and Furlong) that you mentioned, the three who have been out, they're all close to getting back involved.

"Just a little bit too soon, whether they come back in next week... again, we're trying to make assessments all the time so you could, in theory, take a bit of a chance with one of them but ultimately they're not quite right just yet.

"That's part of that dilemma for us, you're trying to weigh up all the factors, but hopefully they're not a million miles away from being involved, which would be good."