Monday 21 January 2019

Kane is well able to step up for Leinster

Kane Douglas
Kane Douglas

In terms of return on investment from their foreign signings, Leinster has done pretty well over the years. Few would dispute that two of their signings - Isa Nacewa (how Ireland under the new eligibility laws could have done with him) and Rocky Ellsom - were alongside Toulon's Johnny Wilkinson the greatest European signings of all time.

While Leinster have had a few deadbeats, mostly those arriving crocked or getting injured soon after, players of the calibre of Nathan Hines, Brad Thorn and others have played a huge role in Leinster's rise to European rugby heavyweights.

Now, former Wallaby and coach of Leinster Matt O'Connor will be hoping that his latest high-profile signing, New South Wales and Aussie second-row Kane Douglas, will have the same sort of influence on his team that the aforementioned players had. No pressure, then.

Douglas, a mountain of a country man hailing from the small rural township of McClean, has had a few weeks settling into Dublin 4 after helping New South Wales to a historic Super 15 Title over the Crusaders last month.

According to Leinster's press conference earlier this week, the 14 times capped, 123 kg 6ft 8 lineout specialist was anxious to dirty his bib against Cardiff this weekend and he has been handed a first start.


Douglas is badly needed, especially after the retirement of the abrasive workhorse that was captain Leo Cullen. Cullen was under-rated, given the amount of donkey work he did for his team. Cullen was old school, a humble type player who shunned the limelight and brought Leinster what the Kiwis would call some "good old fashioned mongrel" to the team.

Douglas comes to Leinster with some pretty good raps from Down Under, not just as a player, but more significantly as a man.

Deemed good enough to start for the Wallabies in all three tests against the Lions last year, many in Australia criticised the 25-year-old for bowing out of international rugby at the worst possible time. Some even questioned his loyalty to the Australian jersey with a World Cup just around the corner.

To others, it just re-opened the issue of granting sabbaticals to key players, very much like the All Blacks conveniently did when Dan Carter wanted a season in France. Douglas was not the only high profile Australian to jump ship this year. 2013 captain Ben Mowen, fresh from leading his country on last year's European Tour, also sought a better life for himself and his family in taking up a lucrative offer to play in France.

Others believe that the likes of Matt Giteau is good enough to add to his 92 international caps, despite plying his trade in Toulon.

The argument will rage on, but can Australia really afford to go in search of a World Cup title without these overseas based players?

In fairness, Douglas has not closed the door completely on Australian rugby, he just wanted a change in life after his mother Trish sadly passed away.

It seems Douglas is his own man, and his decision was based just as much on emotion and a new challenge in his life as it was about the game.

In terms of ability, it seems that O'Connor has a good recruit. Douglas is rangy, raw and has real natural talent, and not unlike Brad Thorn he is reputed to be a quiet, country boy with a big work ethic. It will be interesting to see how he teams up with one of Ireland's players of the year last term, Devin Toner.

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