Exiles vow to step up chase for 'front-line' Ireland player
LONDON IRISH have stated their intention to land a "front-line Irish international" as they look to re-establish their links with Ireland, but the Premiership club have pledged to try to work with the IRFU as they aim to increase their number of players from this country.
Donnacha Ryan has been established as a top target for Exiles boss Brian Smith, who has already signed Tom Court for next season. The Ulster prop will join Ian Humphreys, Jamie Hagan and captain Tomas O'Leary at the club.
Having been taken over by a consortium led by Cavan businessman Mick Crossan, the Exiles want to return to being the 'fifth province', a status that has been eroded over the past decade.
"We have to be what we say we are on the tin and that means being representative of Ireland," former Ireland out-half Smith said.
Interim club chairman David Fitzgerald has said that Smith will have significant funds available to him as he looks to make signings for next season.
"We would love to get our hands on a front-line Irish international, but clearly we want to work with the unions," Smith said.
"We are not trying to drag the Irish captain (Paul O'Connell) out of a central contract, but if it fits for someone who has missed the boat or who wants a life change, then we can attract that type of player."
Former Leinster prop CJ van der Linde yesterday signed on with the Exiles, but Fitzgerald warned that while the coffers have been boosted, the club won't be taking on the French giants in the financial stakes.
"I don't want people to run away with the idea that we have brought in a whole load of money and we are basically going to be the next Toulon," he said.
"The reality is that the French market is in a different league to everybody else. It doesn't make economic sense to start competing with those guys.
"The idea is not to treat rugby as a toy that you can invest in for fun. It's a fool's errand if you try to compete with the French."
HUGHES KEEPS COOL TO EDGE MOYNE THROUGH
Moyne Community School qualified for a Leinster Schools Duff Junior Cup final crack at St Conleth's College by beating Good Counsel New Ross 13-12 at Naas RFC.
The winners came back from 12-5 down at the break as Counsel made good use of the wind, full-back Aaron Kehoe to the fore with two tries and a conversion.
Centre Tristan Hoffman and full-back Rory Hawkins burst through for their tries and fly-half Mark Hughes kicked a vital penalty that made all the difference.