Thursday 17 April 2014

Stade now lead O'Brien chase as injuries cool French interest

2 December 2013; Leinster's Sean O'Brien arrives for squad training ahead of their Heineken Cup 2013/14, Pool 1 Round 3, game against Northampton on Saturday. Leinster Rugby Squad Training & Press Briefing, Rosemount, UCD, Belfield, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Leinster's Sean O'Brien

Stade Francais have emerged as the most viable French destination for Sean O'Brien but the flanker's latest injury setback appears to have cooled interest elsewhere.

Sources in France believe those other sides like Clermont have been warned off by the dislocated shoulder that will rule the Carlow man out for the majority of the remainder of this season.

"Stade seem to be front-runners but I have heard from other clubs in France that there is a reluctance to commit to a player who has had so many injuries at such a young age," a French source said.

O'Brien (below) now seems more likely than at any time in the last few months to remain in Ireland.

The problem for his camp now is that the IRFU may be reluctant to commit to as significant an investment in the player as they had previously calculated, as evidenced by their recent attitudes to injured players.

Meanwhile, Ulster's injured back-row Stephen Ferris is set to be handed another extension to a short-term deal as he aims to play his first rugby this spring since damaging his ankle in November 2012.

It is believed Ferris will be granted a final extension during which he will have to prove his ability to return to rugby.

Ulster hope to tie up many of their young stars in the next fortnight but it is unclear whether the influential Johann Muller will accept an offer to remain in the northern hemisphere.

His Ulster team-mate Chris Henry has vowed to take O'Brien's place in the Six Nations by demonstrating his worth on return from injury this Friday against Munster's Tommy O'Donnell.

"It's an opportunity for me with Sean out, and I've got that opportunity to play and stake my claim," he said.

Meanwhile, Welsh rugby teetered on the brink of civil war last night as the regions refused to sign a new participation agreement with their union.

In response, the union hit back by suggesting that they will remain committed to the Pro12, even if it means formulating new regions.

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