Monday 22 January 2018

Exiles confident Hagan will be future Irish star

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

LONDON IRISH director of rugby Brian Smith has pledged to turn Jamie Hagan into a Test-standard tighthead after agreeing a deal to sign the Balbriggan native at the end of the season.

The 25-year-old prop has struggled for opportunities since re-joining home province Leinster after a successful stint in Connacht, but he has been given a considerable thumbs up by English Premiership strugglers London Irish, who have handed him a three-year deal at the Madejski Stadium.

In his two seasons since coming back to the east coast, Hagan has played just once in the Heineken Cup and has started only 15 matches.

But Smith, who represented both Australia and Ireland, believes that he has the potential to play at the highest level. "Jamie Hagan is a future Irish Test player," the former England backs coach said.

"He's cut his teeth in the Pro12 and is more than ready to launch his Premiership career. He's a tough, uncompromising prop coming into his prime and he'll add more steel to our tight five.

"Jamie's rugby talent and Irish heritage make him a perfect fit for the club.

"I'm genuinely delighted that he's committed to London Irish for the next three seasons."

The decision to allow Hagan (right) to move on increases the importance of New Zealand-born Ireland international Michael Bent to Leinster, and forwards coach Jono Gibbes said he believes his fellow Kiwi is improving after a difficult start.

"It was an unfortunate situation in that I didn't get to work with him first, he went to the Ireland set-up and experienced that and I thought he acquitted himself well there," he said.

"This last period he's made some really good progress for us. I feel he's keen to learn and to keep progressing, and he works really hard.

"I think that's all you can ask from a player and I think he's progressed really well in this last block for us.

"Benty's here long-term. I'm sure he's going to be a good asset for Ireland and for Leinster."

Leinster welcome Fergus McFadden back for this week's Pro12 derby against Ulster, but they have been dealt a blow after flanker Jordi Murphy's hand injury ruled him out for up to five weeks. The province have all of their fit, returning internationals available.

Meanwhile, back-row Dominic Ryan is believed to have committed his future to the European champions' cause as Leinster finalise their roster for next season.

Irish Independent

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