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Easterby: BOD replacements are plentiful

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Brian O'Driscoll. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

Brian O'Driscoll. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Brian O'Driscoll. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

AND so the process starts to replace the irreplaceable Brian O'Driscoll for country and club.

Leinster manager Guy Easterby is keen to entertain an array of possibilities for the national post rather than narrow it down to one man.

"As much as there is a hell of a hole that is very difficult to fill I can guarantee there will be plenty of people there in competition," he said.

"I think Fergus McFadden is one on the national level; Lukey (Fitzgerald) is one on the national level. Tommy Bowe played nearly a whole season there for the Ospreys.

"Jared Payne in the north is certainly someone with the X-Factor, who I know they rate incredibly highly up there and Joe would know of him with his New Zealand background. And Darren Cave's done well."

Leinster could even solve two problems with one signing by getting their hands on Connacht's Robbie Henshaw. They will have to wait in the long grass as the former Westmeath minor footballer will be out West until the summer of 2016, at least.

Replacements

"Robbie Henshaw is a fantastic talent. Why would you not be interested in him? Absolutely! We would be," he said.

"If he's happy at Connacht, which he obviously is because he's just signed a two-year contract, who are we to say: 'you're better off at Leinster?'"

There has been a steady stream of Leinster players flowing out to Connacht. Conor Gilsenan is the most recent example, moving there on-loan for the rest of the season.

"The way that we look at it is the Union holds all the contracts. People are well aware that there is pressure on some of our squad players to move," he continued.

"Does that work both ways? I don't know because we haven't asked the question.

"He's an IRFU contracted player. He's certainly going to be in and around the national squad for years to come. In the future, that is possibly something we can look at.

"As a talent, as a thirteen, he's got all the skills. Brian has spoken very highly of what he will be able to deliver in the future."

For next season, Easterby thinks the province too will have to look within rather than without to find the successor to O'Driscoll.

"It is a process we have been going through to be honest. We haven't got any specific plans. We've had a look around in terms of people trying to replace him," said Easterby.

"What you will find this year is that a lot of players at the real top level aren't going to move because of the World Cup.

"You see the cycles post-World Cup where people can head off for two years and still come back and compete for a World Cup place.

Top-class

"If you're looking at top-class international players, who are currently in their national set-ups, there are not many who are willing to up sticks and leave a year out from the World Cup. That's understandable.

"The tier of players below top-level understand that their value goes up, so that you end up paying more money than you'd like for a player who's not actually what you're looking for."

Really, Leinster are in a good place: "The important part for us is that – whether we get someone in or not – we do feel that we've got options there moving forward.

"I think the point that we're at here is that we've got Luke Fitzgerald, who's played 13 at the top level, Brendan Macken, who has numerous PRO12 games and he's started European games this year.

"Then, you've got Ferg' who has played everywhere for us and wherever he plays he does outstandingly well."

There is also Zane Kirchner to consider: "I think he has only ever played one test there and it was against Ireland. He would also be an option for us – definitely.

"As it stands at the moment, I would imagine that one of those are going to be there in the mix next season."