Roux locks down Leinster extension and opens door to greener future
SOUTH-AFRICAN second row Quinn Roux has become an 'Ireland project player' by deciding to extend his time at Leinster by two seasons.
This would bring Roux in under the Ireland-qualified umbrella by the end of the 2014/2015 season, possibly following in the footsteps of his countryman Richardt Strauss, who earned two caps for Ireland in November.
Who knows, it may even come in time for the Rugby World Cup in England. Of course, it will take a quick rate of progress and, also, an uninterrupted run of form without the shadow of injury which has ruined his first season at Leinster.
Coach Joe Schmidt and forwards coach Jono Gibbes are known to be excited about the potential of the big, bruising 22-year-old Pretorian secured from The Western Province last summer.
Leinster's fortune with South African players has been mixed, second row Steven Sykes quickly returning home last year for one reason or another. Basically, Ireland wasn't for him.
In contrast, the province has benefitted from the excellence and determination of their two front row forwards, Strauss and Henke van der Merwe.
No doubt, Van der Merwe would have been right in the hunt for Ireland honours at the end of this, his third season here, were he not already capped four times by The Springboks. The remarkably consistent 27-year-old leaves for France at the end of this season. He has already amassed 79 Leinster caps as an unsung hero of the squad.
Initially signed on a one-year deal, Roux could easily have turned away from Leinster due to a horrific time with injury.
First, Roux endured a freak injury in a pre-match warm-up in September when cartilage came away from his sternum. That left him with time to contemplate his move to the northern hemisphere.
Then, he suffered a dreadful shoulder dislocation in a PRO12 League match against Glasgow in November. It was just his third match for the club.
He rose to collect a lineout and lost his lifters on the way to a crashing fall. He has not played since.
There is the possibility that he will be involved either against The Dragons in the PRO12 League tomorrow or at home to Glasgow in three weeks' time.
It is just as well. Second row Damian Browne is out for what coach Schmidt called "the foreseeable future" with a shoulder injury.
Club captain Leo Cullen has yet to sign on for another season as he, like Brian O'Driscoll, waits to see how his body holds up and what the IRFU have to offer him.
Devin Toner has stagnated somewhat since his three Ireland caps in November 2011, although coming on as a replacement in the ignominious defeat to Scotland last Sunday.
Like Roux, Mark Flanagan has been hit hard by injury: "He had a disc problem in his back. He was just about back when he encountered another disc problem, the same disc," said Schmidt.
"He has been unfortunate. He was shifting flat of all things. He was almost back ready to play and then he was out again for another 10-12 weeks."
This was earmarked as 23-year-old Flanagan's breakout season.
His gallop has been stopped dead by injury. He is also available for selection tomorrow night.
Former Ireland U20 Ben Marshall, 22, is another muscling his way into contention partly due to his own development and partly due to the misfortune suffered by Roux and Flanagan.
The departure of Brad Thorn last season and Nathan Hines the season before that left a hole in the Leinster squad is beginning fill up.
Ireland international Mike McCarthy has been signed over from Connacht. He will expect to come as first choice and to play regularly for Leinster.
Captain Cullen, Toner and Browne will know only too well that McCarthy is coming and Roux, Flanagan and Marshall are on their way up.