Following on from the announcement earlier today that Cian Healy has extended his IRFU contract until 2021, Leo Cullen has confirmed a further 20 player contracts have been agreed including already the already confirmed Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw.
“It’s a credit to the work that goes on in the schools and in the clubs that we are in a position to confirm 21 new contracts, with all but three coming through the system here. Over the last 20 months or so we have been able to hand debuts to nine academy players and they have deserved those opportunities. And now seven players that started this season in the academy will start next season as senior players,” said Cullen.
He went on to congratulate the younger players that have come through the ranks as well as welcoming back academy graduate Cian Kelleher from Connacht.
“I’m delighted for them and indeed their families and congratulate them on their promotion. We have been very happy with what we have seen from them all in the Guinness PRO14 and in some cases in the Heineken Champions Cup and we hope that they get many more chances in a Leinster jersey in the coming years. It’s also exciting to welcome Cian Kelleher back to Leinster. We have always kept a close eye on his progress at Connacht and it’s great that we can now welcome him back to Leinster and we wish him well in what is already a very competitive position in the team,” he added.
Kelleher returns to Leinster having joined Connacht in 2016, where he scored 14 tries in 54 appearances and is delighted to be back in blue where he will be reunited with younger brother Ronan.
“I’m incredibly excited to get back to my home province this summer and get started in an unbelievable set up in Leinster. It was an opportunity too good to refuse when it came up and I can’t wait to get started and compete in an extremely competitive environment. I hope to add to the incredible success the province has had in the last couple of seasons,” Kelleher said.
All the star names from the past few seasons remain contracted to the club along with youngsters such as Ciaran Frawley, Conor O’Brien, Scott Penny and Hugh O’Sullivan.
However, the most noticeable name missing from the list is that of Ireland international full-back Kearney who is yet to agree renewal terms on his centrally funded IRFU contract. There has been plenty of speculation regarding his future especially since Sean O’Brien, who leaves for London Irish this summer, posted an apparent parting message for Kearney on his Instagram.
For now, all focus will be on Leinster’s Pro 14 final against Glasgow on Saturday but after then there is no doubt that attention will swing back to Kearney’s situation once more.
Leinster Duo to Miss Start of Season
Leinster have confirmed that two players will miss the start of the upcoming season in what is a big blow for the province
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has confirmed that both Ciaran Frawley and Barry Daly have suffered injuries in pre-season and will miss the start of the season.
Young fly-half Frawley impressed last season when given his chances, and with Johnny Sexton at the World Cup it was an opportunity for him and Ross Byrne to share the No 10 jersey.
However, Cullen has confirmed that Frawley has suffered an ankle ligament injury during their win over the Northampton Saints last week and has undergone a procedure to fix the problem. The bad news is that he will be out of action for six to eight weeks.
Along with Frawley, back Daly has picked up a knee ligament and cartilage injury during a training session.
Like his teammate he has undergone a procedure to mend the issue, however, he is expected to be unavailable for selection for up to five months.
With a number of key men on international duty with Ireland at the Rugby World Cup in Japan for the next two months the squad is already stretched and these will come as massive set-backs for Cullen and co.
Leinster begin their PRO14 campaign on Sunday the 28th of September away to last season’s surprise package Benetton and they will hope to get off to a winning start as they attempt to claim their third league title on the bounce.
Glasgow Warriors Sign Highlanders Prop
Glasgow Warriors have confirmed the arrival of an experienced Super Rugby loosehead
The loosehead’s move is subject to visa and a medical with the club, which he is expected to pass, and he is excited to make the move to Scotstoun.
“I’m really looking forward to moving to Glasgow. It’s going to be a new challenge for me and I’m excited about the opportunity to play in Europe. The coaching team’s reputation speaks for itself – Dave is highly regarded and I can’t wait to work with him. I also know Siua from our time at the Highlanders, so I’m sure he’ll help me settle in. Glasgow Warriors have a very strong squad and made it to the Guinness PRO14 final last season, so I know I’ll have to get my head down and work hard to compete for my place in the team,” he said while speaking to glasgowwarriors.org.
Seiuli will bring a huge amount of experience to the Glasgow set-up having notched up 38 appearances for the Highlanders and featuring in the side that defeated the 2017 British & Irish Lions.
His shear power and size is something that head coach Dave Rennie is looking forward to having in his side and believes he will fit in well.
“Aki is a hell of an athlete. We identified him as someone with that point of difference around his ball carrying and physicality. He’s a good man and someone who we believe will fit in really well into our environment. He knows he’ll need to come over and work hard because we’re going to have a lot of competition in that loosehead spot this season,” he said.
The 26-year-old will be helped to settle in by former teammate Siua Halanukonuka whom he spent time with previously. If he does settle in quickly it will be a massive prospect for the Warriors fans ahead of the new season as they look to go one step further and win the PRO14 title as well as competing in the Champions Cup.
Owens retains Scarlets captaincy for new season
With Owens set to play an integral part in Wales’ World Cup campaign outside centre Steffan Hughes and former Springboks prop Werner Kruger have been named as vice captains along with Wales squad members James Davies and his brother Jonathan.
The six consecutive seasons at the helm is a record for the Scarlets in the regional era and brings Owens alongside the great Phil Bennett, the Scarlets president, who captained Llanelli RFC between 1973 and 1979. “Ken is an outstanding leader,” said new Scarlets head coach Brad Mooar.
“I heard the other night Alun Wyn Jones refer to him as the heart of any team he is in, such high praise from a legend of the game and something that has been really clear to me from the time I have been involved in this Scarets journey. Ken’s heart beats Scarlets.
“I first met Ken about a year ago. He is held in such high regard, is such a genuine Scarlets person and an outstanding rugby player. Without exception, everybody I have spoken to – players, management, staff, the board – everyone speaks highly of Ken and his leadership abilities.
“He has played for and captained the British and Irish Lions, has been part of the leadership group for Wales. It is an absolute no-brainer that he is the right man to lead this team, club and its people.
“It is a World Cup year so we have got four vice-captains who are superb leaders in their own right, players who lead in different ways and contribute greatly to the group. That allows us to have a leadership group that is seamless throughout the year.
“With Cubby, Werner, Steff and Fox it is an awesome group to help Ken lead us. We had a launch here at Parc y Scarlets and their involvement and engagement has been outstanding.
“It is not just about the boys who are physically here now; Ken, Fox and Cubby’s connection and involvement with me, with the group and with the players, player to player, you can see that is there, as it has been with all the guys who have been involved with Wales.
“They are Scarlets at heart, they live and breathe it, and there is a huge amount of IP that will lead us throughout the season.”
Owens, who won his 67th cap for his country against Ireland last weekend, said: “It is a huge honour to be again named captain of my home region and, as I said when I was first appointed captain, a privilege to follow in the footsteps of some legends of the game who have led the Scarlets in the past.
“It is an exciting season ahead for the Scarlets and we have a strong leadership group to take us forward.”
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