independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Centre switch the carrot as Munster ponder shock Fitzgerald bid

Luke Fitzgerald. Photo: Sportsfile

LEINSTER may be facing competition for Luke Fitzgerald from southern rivals Munster.

The Ireland and Leinster utility back's provincial deal with Leinster expires in June. Leinster have offered him terms but it is understood he was being courted by Munster before suffering his cruciate ligament injury.

As a consequence of the injury, which happened after he replaced Keith Earls in Rome last weekend, Fitzgerald's season is over. He is scheduled to undergo surgery this week and faces up to six months in rehabilitation.

Leinster have confirmed that they will be offering Fitzgerald a new deal. Munster's reported interest may, however, turn the 25-year-old's head.

This latest injury is a cruel blow for the 2009 Lion after he fought his way back to fitness from a career-threatening neck injury. This followed a previous spell on the sidelines when he damaged knee ligaments two years ago.

Fitzgerald had been showing signs of returning to his best form with Leinster in their final two Heineken Cup pool games, and this was enough to prompt a return to the international stage during the Six Nations.

Prior to coming off the bench against Scotland in this year's championship, Fitzgerald's last international was back in 2011 during Ireland's World Cup warm-up series of matches. He and scrum-half Tomas O'Leary were the two big-name absentees from the squad that reached the quarter-finals.

Fitzgerald has won 26 caps for Ireland, scoring two tries, and one cap from the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa.

One of his greatest strengths is his versatility. The former Blackrock College star can play anywhere in the backline, but is believed to be keen to develop his skill set at outside-centre, an opportunity Munster might more readily afford him.

Munster's interest surfaced before his latest injury.

Whether or not they have maintained that interest in light of his most recent setback is the question.

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