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Donal Lenihan calls for Leinster to sign ‘high-profile’ overseas players


Donal Lenihan has suggested that Leinster may need to sign some foreign “x-factor” players if they intend on reclaiming the Heineken Champions Cup.

Leinster were overpowered by a La Rochelle team containing international players from New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Fiji in a physical Champions Cup semi-final on Sunday.

Former Ireland international Lenihan was speaking on the RTE Rugby podcast and argued that Leinster shouldn’t have to rely so heavily on their ability to produce their own talent.

“You’ve got to get the mix right, that little bit of x-factor outside if you need it to close the gap with the others,” Lenihan said.

“But maybe when everyone is telling you that you are doing a brilliant job producing these players, you just take your eye off the ball a bit.

“There’s no question in my mind that Leinster will sit down after this and reassess where they are. The model is there.

“Munster and Ulster have been able to bring in high-profile overseas players, players like Damien de Allende, Marcel Coetzee, RG Synman. Why not Leinster?”

‘They shouldn’t be penalised just because their production line is good.’

Only two players in Leinster’s 23-man match-day squad against La Rochelle were brought in from overseas – former Australia international Scott Fardy and New Zealand-born Ireland winger James Lowe.

Past Leinster sides that achieved European glory were often helped by a couple of overseas players, such as Wallabies flanker Rocky Elsom, All Blacks lock Brad Thorn and of course, the one-time Fijian international Isa Nacewa.

While the talent coming out of Leinster’s academy is arguably better now than it was when they first became European champions back in 2009, they have been unable to reach those same heights in the last three seasons.

Although Leinster’s academy has brought the Pro14 champions plenty of success, Lenihan feels as though it is unable to plug every gap that may appear in the province’s squad.

“They shouldn’t be penalised just because their production line is good,” Lenihan commented.

“I think what we are seeing now is it’s not broad enough [production line] to generate key type of players that are the missing ingredient in getting over the last hurdle.”

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