Loss of 'true warrior' a double blow for Blues - McQuilkin
Kurt McQuilkin has described the enforced retirement of Kevin McLaughlin as a massive blow to all involved with Leinster rugby.
From his time as a regional development officer for Leinster, and then as Michael Cheika's defence coach, the former Ireland centre witnessed McLaughlin's development from a promising schoolboy at Gonzaga College to a fully fledged Irish international, and considers himself lucky to have done so.
"I've known Kevin since watching him as a schoolboy, then watching him come up through the grades and on to the Leinster scene, and then for Ireland," he said.
"It's a great shame because he's been one of the true warriors for Leinster rugby in recent history and it's sad to see him go."
Like many of those who have come forward to pay tribute to 31-year-old since he announced earlier this week that an increased susceptibility to concussion had compelled him to call time on his career, the Leinster defence coach was as effusive in his praise of McLaughlin's character as his exploits as a teak-tough flanker.
"He's an outstanding guy. On the field, he's a very uncompromising footballer, and off the field he's a very engaging guy and a hell of a nice bloke - I couldn't speak highly enough of him," he said.
Of course, as Leo Cullen had appointed McLaughlin as his captain during the World Cup period, the loss will be felt even more acutely, and an inexperienced Leinster squad must now forge ahead without another of its seasoned campaigners during the World Cup window.
Yet, with such a pivotal season to come, McQuilkin was adamant that the show must go on, starting with next Saturday's showdown with the Dragons at the RDS.
"He's a great leader, on and off the pitch," he said. "It's a massive loss and a double blow - to lose a guy of his calibre, but also losing our skipper this early in the season. We've just got to regroup and get on with it now.
"We're focused on the Dragons. We're prepping ourselves, and making sure we're well schooled up for them coming to the RDS.
"They're going to be a very tough side - we've done a lot of video work on them already - and they possess a pretty potent side at this time of the year and we look forward to the clash, but it's going to be a big ask too."