No chance of swoop for Payne, insists Blues boss
Published 02/06/2014 | 02:30
Matt O'Connor has categorically denied that Leinster are trying to lure Jared Payne south despite persistent rumours that the New Zealander could join from Ulster this summer.
Seen by many as the front-runner to succeed Brian O'Driscoll in the Ireland No 13 jersey when he becomes Irish-qualified in the autumn, Payne has two years left on his contract at Ravenhill, but murmurings about a move have refused to go away.
O'Connor admitted he is actively pursuing a replacement to fill the vacant slot at outside centre from outside the province, but Leinster are on record as saying the pre-World Cup market is a difficult one in which to shop.
Within the squad, the Australian has the capacity to shift Gordon D'Arcy out one and bring in Ian Madigan or Noel Reid, while Fergus McFadden, Brendan Macken, Collie O'Shea and Zane Kirchner are other options.
However, O'Connor firmly denied the notion that Payne would be making the switch from Belfast to Dublin to join the Pro12 champions.
"No, he's contracted, I think he's got a two-year deal up there," he said.
"We're looking at options all the time, it's important that we get the fit right culturally. It's an important slot – the No 13 jersey has been an iconic jersey for Leinster for a long time.
"We need to make sure we get the fit right and as soon as we have got that slotted, if that's an outside body, you'll be the first to know.
"I'd love to bring in five or six but that's never going to happen. I'm arguing with the IRFU every day to make sure we can win Europe, whether it happens or not I don't know."
Meanwhile, departing Leinster No 8 Leo Auva'a has signed a two-year deal with Treviso.