herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

Brad may be a new thorn in our side

Schmidt bid to land Kiwi lock to ease Leinster's injury crisis

COACH Joe Schmidt has admitted that All Black World Cup winner Brad Thorn is "keen" to come to Leinster on a three-month contract.

The problem is that his Japanese club Fukuoka Sanix Blues have the power to hold or to release him. Schmidt expects the matter to be resolved, one way or the other, in the next week.

"There is not too much that Brad Thorn hasn't achieved in the game of rugby. There is a massive respect worldwide in what he brings to a team. That respect extends to Europe," said Schmidt.

France international Sebastian Chabal is another high-profile player who could be in the market, following his public falling out with Racing Metro Director of Rugby Pierre Berbizier.

"We certainly haven't been talking to him. Would we talk to him? I would never say never. We've got to look at the resources we have currently," noted Schmidt.

The big problem with bringing an iconic figure like Chabal would be fact that he has already played for Racing Metro in the Heineken Cup. This would rule him as ineligible for the knockout phase for Leinster.

There is also the not insignificant matter of his reputation as a player who is difficult to manage even though he would be welcomed with open arms by the Leinster faithful.

The Leinster coach is smack bang in the middle of a second row crisis that could undo his plans to complete a unique Heineken Cup-PRO12 League double in May.

Operation

Captain Leo Cullen is "looking at 8-12 weeks" out from an Achilles operation. Damian Browne is playing with an ongoing shoulder injury.

Former Ireland U20 lock Ben Marshall is out with a shoulder reconstruction. Steven Sykes has returned to South Africa.

This leaves Schmidt with Devin Toner, his cousin Mark Flanagan, Browne and versatile back five forward Kevin McLaughlin, recovered from a neck strain, as his only legitimate options.

"While we have confidence in the personnel we have, the reality is that if we get one more injury we are very, very skinny," warned Schmidt.

Left wing Luke Fitzgerald will not take part in Leinster's PRO12 League match at home to Benetton-Treviso this Thursday. The same goes for Andrew Conway.

Fitzgerald should be cleared to play against The Scarlets on Friday week. Schmidt also indicated that he will only put any Ireland players released from preparation for France on the bench against Benetton.

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