Shane: I cried leaving Blues
Going to Tigers in '05 proved emotional for Jennings but says it was the 'best thing' he ever did as he returned to Leinster a winner
SHANE JENNINGS has all the hallmarks of one of those alpha-males, you know, the 'real men don't cry' types.
Well, when he came to the conclusion he had to leave Leinster for two years back in 2005, the rock-hard exterior melted away as he had to deal with the emotional wrench of leaving home.
"When I went to Leicester for the first time, I met (former coach) Pat Howard and he said, 'there's a contract on the table, do you want to sign it?'
"And I'm like, 'Jaysus, I only thought I was coming over to have a look at the place'."
Jennings was about to turn 24 and his road was blocked by the remarkably durable and consistent Keith Gleeson. Game time was his greatest concern.
It came to a tipping point, "I didn't want to go. I was still crying in the car with my mom and she's saying, 'you'll never be the same again'," he revealed.
"You can't take away the fact that it's not going to be emotional, leaving the club you wanted to play with for the rest of your life, the place where you've grown up; your city, your family, your friends."
There are a host of Leinster players well under the age of 24 who have to be patient and wait for their turn to impress coach Matt O'Connor.
It is in places like Treviso last Sunday and at home to the Scarlets on Saturday in the PRO12 League that chances have to be earned and taken.
Jennings is an example of someone who had to go away to come back.
Jonathan Sexton falls into that bracket too, for a different reason.
"It's a professional decision and you've got to be man enough to make that. And whether it's to develop as a player or for financial reasons, whatever, they're tough decisions.
"I can't really speak for anyone else. I know Jonny from being in school with him. I knew that he was very emotional and attached to the place. To make that step, you really have to be ready for it.
"Looking back, it was the best thing that I ever did because I grew up and I got better."
Jennings has been where some of the younger players are at this current time with one major difference – he left to become a winner. Since then Leinster has become Leicester Tigers in terms of the pursuit of silverware. It is no longer acceptable to contend – only to win.
"There are a lot of those lads who have had reflected glory. I don't mean that in a bad way. They want to be playing," he said of schoolboy heroes who have had to start at the back of the queue.
"I remember last year after Rhys (Ruddock) played in the final against Stade (Francais) in the Amlin (Challenge Cup final). He was over the moon.
"Other people were enjoying it. But, he was 'this is my first final and I have contributed now'.
"So they want to be a part of adding value to the club."