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The Biggest Transfer Need For Each Irish Rugby Province

The Biggest Transfer Need For Each Irish Rugby Province
By Conor O'Leary
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It's coming to the business end of the season for the Irish provinces - in more ways than one. While the final places in the PRO12 need to be dished out, backroom men in each province are already looking at next year. Contracts are still being signed, players are being told they aren't needed, and targets are being brought in.

Already we've seen a hive of activity from each province - most notably Robbie Henshaw moving east to Leinster - but there are needs that haven't been addressed by all provinces. Here are the top transfer needs for each team.


Scrumhalf / Outhalf

It's no secret that Leinster have the most stacked squad in Ireland. In the front five alone, they have two or three teams that the rest of the PRO12 could only dream about. Third or fourth choice props or hookers are in line for international call-ups, while there is a back-row factory still over-producing in Dublin 4.

The issue in Leinster is that there is no one to direct them. At scrum-half, it's been well documented that both Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss are on the bad side of 35, leaving Luke McGrath as the only senior nine, and Nick McCarthy as the only academy back-up. There were whispers that the signing of Jamison Gibson Park was imminent, but that hasn't happened yet.

Then there's the spot one out from scrumhalf. Johnny Sexton is the man, but his injury history and his importance to Ireland mean there needs to be some substantial back-up. With Madigan leaving - there's only Cathal Marsh as a senior ten. There are two in the academy - highly rated Ross Byrne, and Joey Carberry - while centre Noel Reid has minimal experience in the pivot position.

Leinster need to trade some of their grunt depth for bodies behind McGrath and Sexton.


Tighthead prop

Munster's needs are probably the greatest of all. The arrivals of Sam Arnold and John Andress should help things a little, but more bodies are needed. The centre problems are easing with Scannell, Arnold, and Saili - and the interest in Chris Farrell would turn a problem position into a strength.


There are still holes to fill - Cathal Sheridan's injury woes means that a quality operator behind Murray is seriously lacking, and Tommy O'Donnell's injury highlighted the need for another openside flanker.

Which brings us to the three biggest worries - outhalf, second row, and tighthead prop. The departures of Ronan O'Gara and Paul O'Connell, and expected departure of BJ Botha have hit Munster hard. Johnny Holland looks bright and has a future, and maybe Bleyendaal can put his injury issues behind him. Unless Keatley can rediscover his form that earned him the start in the 2015 Six Nations, then his future is in doubt.

But the main problem is at tighthead. Munster's scrum was destroyed by Connacht on Saturday - and it wasn't the first game this season that that has happened. James Cronin is a very good player, and the play of Archer and Kilcoyne in the loose is fantastic. But the solidity of Botha will be missed. It's a tough call to say that John Andress is the answer, given that he's firmly behind WP Nel in the pecking order at Edinburgh.



Ball Carrier

Nick Williams is out the door at Ulster, and is being replaced by Springbok international Marcel Coetzee. That's not really a like for like replacement. While Coetzee has the better pedigree, he's more a groundhog than a ball carrying back rower. Given that Ulster have never really replaced Stephen Ferris - they've relied on Henderson and Williams for go forward ball. Coetzee won't give them that and now they are down to just Henderson.

Signing a back row of that ilk would be a big boost to Ulster - but they would have to find an Irish qualified player to do that because they are already over the limit for non Irish qualified players.


Ball Carrier

Connacht are arguably in the best shape of all the provinces. The imminent arrival of Marnitz Boshoff gives them an outhalf they crave, the impending graduation of academy players like James Connolly, Sean O'Brien, Ciaran Gaffney, Conor Finn, and Rory Parata means that there is depth in a lot of places.


Hooker is a position behind Tom McCartney that might need a body or two, and someone to fill Aly Muldowney's experience would be a big boost - even if Connacht have the youthful bodies at lock to replace him. Connacht's biggest need is arguably one that they have needed for a while - a ball carrying forward. Lam has successfully brought a quick tempo play with ball skills to the Westerners - and what better way to maximise that than to have a forward to can run hard like a Nick Williams - creating space for those out wide.

At the moment - Connacht rely on Bundee Aki and Peter Robb to make big yards. Connacht's forwards work extremely hard and have up-skilled really well but there needs to be more. Dillane looks like he can do some of the role, but he needs a back-row mate to help. John Muldoon isn't a ball-carrier, neither is Fox-Matamua, Heenan, McKeon, or Masterson. Sean O'Brien looks to be in the same mould as Muldoon as a constant leader, but he was effective at schools with ball in hand.

See Also: Two Irish Feature In Nigel Owen's Dream XV Of Players He's Refereed

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