Sunday 17 December 2017

Leinster line up former Connacht lock Browne

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Leinster have lined up former Connacht and Ireland U-21 second-row Damien Browne to replace the departing Nathan Hines.

Browne is out of contract at Brive at the end of the season and is poised to return to Ireland seven years after leaving Connacht for Northampton Saints. The Galway native, whose brother Andrew has been re-signed by Connacht, spent four seasons with Northampton before moving to Brive.

Browne (30) did not feature in his side's Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final loss to Munster at the weekend because of a back injury, but is expected to return for their trip to Biarritz in the French Top 14 this weekend.

Leinster targeted Browne after Scottish international Hines decided to return to France to play for Clermont Auvergne next season, having previously spent four seasons with Perpignan.

Back-row Stephen Keogh is to leave Leinster at the end of the season to take over a player-coach with Shannon. Keogh, who was won three AIL titles as a player with Shannon, takes over from former international Colm Tucker. The 29-year-old joined Leinster from Munster in 2006 and has 85 appearances for the province.

Leinster's Heineken Cup semi-final opponents Toulouse are experiencing an injury crisis ahead of the April 30 clash. They have particular concerns at scrum-half, with Nicolas Bezy -- the youngster who wore the No 9 jersey in the quarter-final win over Biarritz on Sunday -- a doubt after picking up an ankle injury.

Former All Black Byron Kelleher, Frederic Michalak and Nicolas Vergallo are all currently sidelined. France captain Thierry Dusautoir is also in a race to be fit, while centre Remi Lamerat is out. William Servat, Romain Millo-Chluski and David Skrela all picked up knocks in San Sebastian at the weekend.

Elsewhere, Charlie Hodgson yesterday articulated England's relief that Mark Cueto's ban for eye-gouging has not ruled him out of the World Cup.

Sale wing Cueto received a nine-week suspension after pleading guilty to a charge of making contact with the eye or eye area of Northampton lock Christian Day.

The RFU's disciplinary panel reduced the ban from 18 weeks due to a "compelling mitigation".

"He has played very well for England and the fact he is available now for the warm-up Tests and for the tournament is only a good thing," said Cueto's clubmate Hodgson.

Had the RFU panel not halved his suspension, Cueto would have been banned until August 8 and missed the first of England's three warm-up internationals.

Irish Independent

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