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Ruddock has to feel valued

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Leinster's Rhys Ruddock. Picture credit:  SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Rhys Ruddock. Picture credit: SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Rhys Ruddock. Picture credit: SPORTSFILE

LEINSTER back row forward Rhys Ruddock is being pursued by clubs from both France's Top 14 and England's Premiership.

The English market has increased in the last two years. There was a time when the players could get better paid staying in Ireland. That has changed. And we all know about the market in France.

"If Rhys had to move, it would probably be to a club of similar ilk to Leinster," said his agent Niall Woods, ahead of Leinster's Heineken Cup clash at French champions Castres Olympique.

There is known to be solid interest in Ruddock because of his obvious leadership and playing skills, his versatility in that he can play multiple positions and the way he is playing this season.

It comes down to a simple matter of bang for buck. Ruddock needs to feel valued by Leinster. He is not believed to be looking for outrageous money.

In fact, Ruddock could earn as much as twice the figure from one or more of the unnamed clubs looking at him. There has to be a balance found between what the province want to pay and what an overseas club will pay, a meeting point somewhere around the middle.

Ruddock is too humble, too good a guy to get embroiled in the hard business of grinding out the deal he needs to stay at Leinster. This is where Woods comes in.

FORM

For the time being, Ruddock's value to the IRFU and Leinster will come down to their budget limit and what he is doing on the pitch. And he is in the form of his young life right now.

The problems with his hips have been eradicated. The lower-leg power is there and he is driving through contact in a way he hasn't been able to do for some time.

With increased game time comes increased bargaining power. It is one of the knock-on effects of Ruddock finding his form in the lead-up to contract discussions and, arguably, becoming Leinster's first choice blindside.

Kevin McLaughlin would have something to say about that, though.

Typically, Ruddock is not one to point the finger at anyone else when he can turn it in on himself. The victim mentality is not for him.

"It can all change in a week or two. I am well aware of that. I am not saying I am number one or anything like that," he said.

Coach Matt O'Connor will make what could be a definitive selection decision for Castres as Ruddock vies with a locked and loaded McLaughlin.

"I am just happy I am playing, so we'll wait and see who is picked this weekend and I am sure whoever is picked will do a massive job for us in a big game for us," said Ruddock.

"Whenever anyone steps in, whether it is Kevin, Seánie (O'Brien), Dominic (Ryan) or Jordi (Murphy), they have all played well and it is just a case of getting that run of games whether it is through injury or missing out."

OPPORTUNITY

He has played in 13 matches, starting nine, to this point in the season, which compares favourably with his best season in 2011-2012 when he played one game more.

"It's been really good. I have been enjoying the season, but you have to look at yourself as well and, as I said before, I thought I always got a fair opportunity," he said.

"This year I have just managed to be a bit more consistent in my performances. I have been lucky enough to get a few more games."

The versatility tag can be a nuisance or an advantage. The multi-skilled players in Leinster's back row make it more a strength than a weakness.

There are so many of them. Jordi Murphy has put together back-to-back man of the match performances at seven and eight. McLaughlin is back in the frame. Dominic Ryan is chomping at the bit for a chance. Shane Jennings too.

Dare it be mentioned, Leinster's Heineken Cup adventures could put Ruddock in the shop window on Sunday as long as he can overcome a slight calf strain.

The 23-year-old is playing for his club and his future at a time when he is showing a level of form that must give him a shot at the Six Nations, especially if Peter O'Mahony moves to the openside to compensate for the loss of O'Brien to injury.

"The is the final year of my current contract. I love playing at Leinster. Once you are playing rugby, you are going to be delighted to be with a club like Leinster," he said.

So you want to stay? "Yeah," he smiled.


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